FREE AT LAST: Demonstrators acquitted on this arrest charge.
The wheels of justice grind slowly ....
.... but it's exceedingly fine news to learn from lawyer David Couch of a signal victory in Little Rock District Court for Kaitlin Lott and Greg Deckelman.
and Greg Deckelman
of Occupy Little Rock were arrested last October
by Little Rock police for refusing to break up a small demonstration in the River Market marking the one-year anniversary of the Occupy LR encampment.
The offense: public assembly without a permit.
On May 22nd this year we had a trial in the Little Rock District Court with the Honorable Mark Leverett presiding. We defended the charges on the basis the the City of Little Rock’s public assembly ordinance was unconstitutional in that it permitted overly broad discretion to the governmental officials in the issuance and enforcement of the ordinance. At trial the officer who testified candidly admitted that the ordinance was so broad as to apply to birthday parties in War Memorial Park and that it would be up the discretion of an individual officer as to whether or not to charge those individuals with violating the ordinance. Today I learned that Judge Leverett granted our motion for a directed verdict and dismissed all charges.
The district court ruling sets no precedent for other courts, but I've asked City Attorney Tom Carpenter whether he thinks this outcome means the city should take a look at its permitting ordinance. UPDATE: Carpenter said he'd suggested to city officials some years ago the need for revisions in the ordinance, but had heard nothing back. He noted, too, that a district court verdict has no value as precedent.
BTW: Couch said the judge apparently made the ruling not long after the trial, but defendants didn't get a copy of the certified record until today.