[Ppnews] Judge had Prosecution on the Ropes" at Cuban Five Appeal

Political Prisoner News PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Feb 15 08:48:51 EST 2006


Atlanta Appeal Court Judge had Prosecution
"on the Ropes" at Cuban Five Appeal Hearing

Atlanta, 14th February, (RHC)--Today's hearing on the case of the
five Cubans incarcerated in US prisons on charges of being a threat
to the security of the United States, among others, at the Elbert P.
Tuttle court room of the 11th Circuit Appeals court house in Atlanta
took nobody by surprise. According to defense lawyers, Leonard
Weinglass, representing Antonio Guerrero and Paul McKenna, defending
Gerardo Hernandez, the line of questioning by the twelve judges of
the appeals court was what they had expected and were prepared for.

The court room was packed for the hearing which started at 9am and
continued for one hour. The time allotted to hear the defense and
prosecution was equally divided between both sides. Family members of
the five Cubans were present for the hearing alongside international
observers and supporters. Representatives of the anti-Cuban terrorist
groups in Miami also attended.

On August 9th 2005 the three judge panel of the Court overturned the
convictions and sentences of Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero,
Ramon Labanino, Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez on the grounds
that they could not receive a fair and impartial hearing in the
hostile climate of Miami. The District Attorney in Miami asked for a
re-hearing of the case following consultation with Washington which
was accepted by a majority of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The oral arguments centered on the issue of venue and jury selection
with Leonard Weinglass, and Richard Klugh, Public Defender in Miami,
presenting the case for the defense and Richard Buckner acting for
the US prosecution.

The vigorous questioning of both the defense and the prosecution
addressed the key issue of whether or not there is pervasive
community prejudice in Miami that would require a retrial in an
alternative location. Judge Birch, who presided at the original
appeal hearing, made several interventions that put the prosecution
on the defensive and enabled the defense to sharpen its arguments.

Weinglass believed that the case had received a fair hearing and was
confident that the twelve judges would now give full consideration to
the arguments. He was hopeful and optimistic that finally after seven
years the convictions of the Five would be reversed.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has never found in favor of the
defense so history would be made if the original appeal finding were
upheld. The fact that Presiding Judge Edmondson did not intervene in
the questioning is seen as favorable by the defense team.

Defense lawyer Paul McKenna told Radio Havana Cuba in a short
interview after the hearing that Judge Birch came out very strongly
on the question of jury interference and intimidation during the
Miami trial. McKenna pointed out that the problem went on throughout
the trial where jurors were followed to their cars and had their
license plates photographed, which were shown on Miami television
during the duration of the trial. McKenna stated that Judge Birch
caught the prosecution on that issue and "like a boxer, had him on
the ropes".

During a press conference at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Atlanta, Leonard
Weinglass described the Miami trial of the five Cuban anti-terrorists
fighters as "a perfect storm of prejudice"

The decision of the 12 judges of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in
Atlanta is expected within two months.

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