Thu, 8 Feb 1996 09:51:11 +0100

>Organization: Political Science, U of Minnesota
>Date: Mon, 29 Jan 1996 15:55:10 CST6CDT
>Priority: normal
>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
>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
>Even the state has to acknowledge it, now: Fighting racism is not a
>joel/Anti-Fascist Defense Committee
>PO Box 7075
>Minneapolis, MN 55407