In preparation for the Nov. 1 trial of 15 persons who crossed a property line at the National Security Campus (NSC), a nuclear weapons parts plant, defense attorney Henry Stoever submitted a 19-page legal brief on Oct. 23. During the trial in the Kansas City, Mo., Municipal Court, Judge Martina Peterson accepted the brief and its 12 exhibits as evidence for the defense. The defendants had pleaded “not guilty” to the trespassing charge and sought the Nov. 1 trial.
“Where defendants know … even a limited exchange of nuclear weapons would cause irreparable harm to our planet, with vast loss of human life and the destruction of our eco-system, then the defendants assert … that they are exercising their constitutional rights and privileges to protect this very precious U.S. Constitution,” says Stoever in the preamble to the brief. The defendants stepped across the painted line at the NSC entry to the nuclear weapons plant, he says, “to raise legal, moral and ethical issues.”
Providing background on the NSC, Stoever says the plant creates or procures the triggering and guidance systems and other non-nuclear parts for nuclear weapons, furnishing about 85 percent of the parts for U.S. nuclear weapons. In close communication with NSC security guards and KC police, Stoever in a May 8 e-mail says the defendants “will risk arrest at the National Security Campus … on May 27.”
The brief notes, “Defendants will assert that their very own lives are at risk, and that there is a clear and present danger of the use of nuclear weapons of mass destruction.”
The brief says one purpose of the U.S. Constitution was to “chain the dogs of war”—with the separation of powers, such that wars must be declared by Congress, funded through authority given by Congress, and then managed by the president. But U.S. nuclear weapons are at ready-to-launch status. “We are at the mercy of a leader who states to North Korea, ‘My nuclear button is much bigger and more powerful than your button, and my Button Works!’” says Stoever in the brief. “We are at a constitutional crisis that must be addressed.”
The brief enumerates First Amendment rights pertinent to the defendants’ case: free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, the right to peaceably assembly, and the right to petition Government for the redress of grievances. The right to life also comes into play in the defendants’ defense, with the Declaration of Independence asserting “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And the United Nations Human Rights Committee insists, “The threat or use of weapons of mass destruction, in particular nuclear weapons … is incompatible with respect for the right to life and may amount to a crime under international law.”
The defendants’ Claim of Right in protesting nuclear weapons, says the brief, is in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the U.N. General Assembly Dec. 10, 1948, prohibiting genocide, torture, slavery, etc. The Claim of Right is also bolstered by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1970, aiming to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. “The current U.S. president seeks ways to reverse that NPT Treaty, which would set a dangerous precedent,” says Stoever in the brief.
Noting that the defendants lacked the “mens rea,” the criminal mind, Stoever declares, “Defendants acted in the spirit of love, life, justice, and grave concerns for all children, grandchildren, and for all of creation.” (Note: to obtain the legal brief, e-mail Stoever, firstname.lastname@example.org.)