Updated at 2:25 a.m.
AUGUSTA — A mistrial was declared today in the trial of five defendants charged with criminal trespass for allegedly failing to follow police orders to leave the Blaine House grounds during a protest last November.
“You’ve told me three times you’ve failed to reach a decision,” said Justice Nancy Mills, prior to discharging the jury.
Earlier today, a note signed by eight jurors said some members of the jury believed others are biased against government.
The judge said they said they could render a fair and impartial verdict when they were selected and even yesterday when she inquired. She also told them they could decide on some defendants while not reaching verdicts on all five.
AUGUSTA — A jury this morning asked to rehear testimony Wednesday from three officers who either warned or arrested the five defendants charged with criminal trespass at the Blaine House.
Justice Nancy Mills is sending in transcripts of that testimony.
Earlier Thursday, the jury asked to go to the Blaine House, as well as for a copy of the Constitution — it was unclear whether it was the federal or state constitution — for the exhibits. There were no exhibits admitted as evidence.
The jury also asked for the Bill of Rights, but the judge declined to give it to them because it was not put in evidence.
The judge told the jury to rely on the written instructions she provided, according to attorneys.
Those on trial in Kennebec County Superior Court on misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass are Elizabeth A. Burke, 48, of Union; Kimberly G. Cormier, 47, of Benton; Patricia L. Messier, 63, of Wiscasset, Jenny Gray, 54, of Wiscasset April 6 and David J. Page, 44, of Surry.
AUGUSTA — A jury will resume deliberating today in a case in which five people are being tried together on charges that they criminally trespassed at the governor’s residence as part of an Occupy Augusta protest last fall.
The jury — six men and seven women — in Kennebec County Superior Court is to return individual verdicts against each defendant after beginning deliberations Wednesday afternoon. The defendants were part of a group of nine people accused of defying police orders to leave the Blaine House grounds Nov. 27. They were protesting about police demands for a permit to continue an Occupy encampment at Capitol Park.
The defendants, Elizabeth A. Burke, 48, of Union; Kimberly G. Cormier, 47, of Benton; Patricia L. Messier, 63, of Wiscasset; Jenny Gray, 54, of Wiscasset; and David J. Page, 44, of Surry, are all represented by attorneys Philip Worden and Lynne Williams. All the defendants except Burke took the stand to testify in their own defense Wednesday.
In his opening statement to jurors, Worden said the five were involved in the Occupy Augusta movement, which was protesting against various aspects of economic injustice in society.
People who had been camping out in Capitol Park since mid-October were told they would have to get a permit to continue to using the park starting Nov. 28, and that they would have to leave by dusk each day. A federal judge later ruled the occupiers needed a permit, so the protesters left the park after a two-month run.
On Nov. 27, “they took their protest directly to the governor’s door to let him know how angry they were,” Worden said. Gov. Paul LePage wasn’t at the residence during the protest.
Worden said the defendants exercised their rights to free speech and to redress grievances and believed they had a right to be there.
“When they had every opportunity to leave and didn’t, doesn’t it suggest to you that these defendants believed in what they were doing, that they were bringing their protest to governor’s mansion because they believed they had a right to do so?” Worden argued.
Two other protesters have already been found guilty of the same offenses. Diane Messer, 59, of Liberty, was convicted by a jury on March 23 in the same courtroom. She was fined $400 and also testified at Wednesday’s trial.
Michael J. Reynolds, 38, of Lewiston, was convicted April 3 after pleading no contest to the criminal trespass, and fined $250.
Four defendants testified about why they went to the Blaine House.
Cormier, a Benton selectwoman and bookseller, said she became involved in the Occupy Augusta movement only one day before the Blaine House protest.
“I think we’re in a really bad situation in the country,” Cormier said. “I think the government is ruled by corporations.”
Gray, who works for the state Department of Transportation, testified she was there because she believes Wall Street corporations are buying legislators and that individuals are not being heard.
Page, a builder and farmer, said he joined the protest after getting a phone call that morning saying the Occupy Augusta overnight encampment had to end. He wanted to protest that ban.
Messier, who works at Bath Iron Works, said she joined the Occupy protesters each Saturday.
“Mostly I just wanted to educate people,” she said, adding that she came to support the group on Nov. 27 and received assistance climbing over the fence to get on the grounds after another protester closed a gate to the grounds.
In his opening statement to jurors, Assistant District Attorney James Mitchell Jr. said the five defendants were not permitted to be on the grounds of the Blaine House, where the governor lives, which he described as a nonpublic forum.
“If there’s not a function going on, and no invitation, it’s not a place people normally gather,” Mitchell said. “It was not open, there were no tours.”
“The front lawn of governor’s mansion is not a forum for people to have their grievances addressed,” Mitchell added in his closing argument.
Three police officers testified about warning the protesters they would be arrested if they didn’t leave. Page said he wasn’t warned by officers to leave the property or face arrest.
Before sending the jury to deliberate at about 3:20 p.m. Wednesday, Justice Nancy Mills told them from the bench and in writing that both the federal and state Constitutions protect “free speech and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances” and that protected speech is never illegal.
“The speech is, however, subject to reasonable restrictions as to time, place and manner,” she said.
Two more people arrested on criminal trespass charges Nov. 27 watched the trial along with a handful of spectators.
The trial of Gregory Fahy, 44, of Hallowell, is set for Friday. James Freeman, 62, of Verona Island, has a June hearing, but has yet to be given a trial date.
The trial of the five defendants almost didn’t start Wednesday because court personnel saw a man and a woman distributing a notice to people — including jurors — entering the courthouse early Thursday.
Mills questioned each juror about the incident before deciding they could return a fair verdict.
Worden told the judge that Gray had helped distribute handouts that referred to portions of the Maine Constitution, but took precautions against tainting the jury.
Mitchell argued that Gray’s contact with a juror violated the judge’s order.
“It’s ruined the jury as far as the state is concerned for all the defendants,” Mitchell said.
Betty Adams — 621-5631