for Professor Jessica West’s presentation “Is Injustice Relevant? Narrative & Blameworthiness in Protester Trials” on Thursday, February 28th. The presentation is in the Cornell Seminar Room from 12:45-2. All VLS community members are welcome!
Does a protester’s motivation matter?
Since September 2011, more than 7,000 Occupy protesters have been arrested in more than 100 cities across the United States. These protesters have been criminally charged with offenses ranging from trespass and failing to disperse, to wearing a mask in public, and “lynching.” Will these protesters be permitted to introduce evidence of the motivations that spurred their protest?
The vast majority of courts consider that evidence of protester motivations, like evidence of motive generally, is not relevant and is, therefore, inadmissible. Professor West criticizes the constrained definition of relevance generally applied in protester trials and argues that exclusion of evidence of motivations underlying protester actions is neither doctrinally required nor theoretically sound.