(eng) Kieran Acquitted

counter@francenet.fr
Thu, 1 Feb 1996 09:24:05 +0100


KIERAN FRAZIER KNUTSON ACQUITTED!

A jury found Kieran Frazier Knutson not guilty of 2nd and 3rd degree
assault yesterday (Sunday January 28). After a two-year struggle and a
two-week trial, this is a clear victory for anti-racist forces in the
Twin Cities.

As the not guilty verdicts were read, the packed courtroom filled with
cheers and tears. Several media sources covered the event, and Kieran
(finally able to comment on his own case after two years) told them,
"The state put me on trial for fighting racism and nazism, and a jury
decided that it's not a crime." Later, at the victory party that night,
Kieran told a crowd of comrades, "October 22, 1993 was a good night.
Tonight is a good night, too. We won both times."

Kieran was charged with assault at an October 22, 1993 anti-racist rally
at the University of Minnesota. Prosecutors maintained that Kieran
attacked Daniel Simmer (a neo-nazi skinhead) unprovoked, hitting him 2-3
times in the head with a maglite flashlight. Kieran never denied
hitting Simmer, but he argued it was in self-defense, as Simmer pulled
out something shiny from his pockets and made a move at Kieran. Kieran
thought it was a knife, so he hit Simmer; the shiny object turned out to
be a pair of brass knuckles. Kieran also argued that he only hit Simmer
once.

In her closing arguments, prosecutor Gemma Graham argued that there were
really two trials being argued in court, one against Kieran Knutson and
the other against nazis. Her whole case was based on two things: 1)
the (weak) testimony of a student newspaper reporter, and 2)
relentlessly bashing defense witnesses and Kieran. Graham argued
throughout the trial that all the witnesses, Kieran, the Anti-Fascist
Defense Committee, and the legal investigator for Kieran were all
involved in an elaborate conspiracy to protect Kieran and to "advance an
agenda." She claimed that witnesses invented their testimony (she
called several witnesses "flat-out liars" in her closing statements) and
that they were coached by defense investigators and the AFDC. She
repeatedly tried to discredit the defense witnesses for their political
affiliations and political beliefs. At one point she sneered, "These
people believe in FIGHTING racism and FIGHTING nazis!" as if that's
something to be ashamed of.

Keith Ellison, Kieran's lawyer, argued that there were indeed two trials
going on, but they were 1) the trial against Kieran and 2) a conspiracy
trial against activists from the Progressive Student Organization,
Anti-Racist Action, and others. He demonstrated that the prosecution's
whole case was based on discrediting witnesses and Kieran for their
political beliefs, and that such an accusation is ridiculous. He also
hammered home again and again the fact that three witnesses saw the nazi
pull out brass knuckles on Kieran before Kieran whopped him, and that
the witnesses's anti-racist politics can't change that fact.

Ultimately, the jury believed us, and Kieran was acquitted. However, as
with everything about this case, even getting an acquittal wasn't easy.
The jury reported to the judge that they were hopelessly hung on
Saturday afternoon (by a vote of 9-3 in favor of acquittal, we later
found out), but the judge sent them back to deliberate more. After
another day of deliberation, two people switched their votes, and then
finally the last person did. In all, the jury was sequestered for 50+
hours and deliberated for more than 20.

Kieran and the Anti-Fascist Defense Committee (the organization that
supported Kieran politically for the past two years) would like to send
our deep and sincere thanks to everyone who has supported us and helped
us throughout all eleven false trial dates and the actual trial itself.
All your phone calls, faxes, and letters to the prosecution really
helped keep the pressure on. Also, your letters of support to Kieran
kept our morale up, especially in the last year or so when it looked
like the trial would never happen. Also, the financial support was
outstanding; we were able to afford everything we needed. Minneapolis
supporters did all these things and more: they attended the numerous
demonstrations and flierings and forums we held, and they packed the
courtroom for every day of the two-week trial (plus a week of jury
selection!). Being with these people in court every day is one of my
proudest political moments.

The next message we'll send will hopefully be from Kieran himself. We
will also be writing a political analysis of the trial soon; let us know
if you'd like a copy. Again, thanks to all and solidarity to those who
are going through similar struggles. Kieran's case proves it: we can
win.

Even the state has to acknowledge it, now: Fighting racism is not a
crime!

Thanks,

joel/Anti-Fascist Defense Committee
PO Box 7075
Minneapolis, MN 55407
jolson@polisci.umn.edu