Main | Wednesday, November 27, 2013

KENTUCKY: Gay Couple Fined One Cent For Trespassing During Marriage Protest

A Louisville, Kentucky gay couple has been found guilty of trespassing for refusing to leave the county clerk's office after being denied a marriage license. But the sympathetic jury fined them only one penny.
After three hours of testimony in which their lawyers hailed them for their civil disobedience, while the prosecution urged jurors to stick to the facts, Blanchard and James were convicted Tuesday of trespassing — but fined only a penny. Blanchard called the penalty a vindication of their protest in support of same-sex marriage. “It shows they understood what we were doing,” he said after jurors returned their verdict following 90 minutes of deliberations.

James’ lawyer, Annie O’Connell, said the fine may have been the smallest ever imposed in a criminal trial in Kentucky. Blanchard’s counsel, Ted Shouse, said in court that he had never tried a case in which the maximum penalty — $250 — “was so low and the stakes were so high.” Jessie Halladay, a spokeswoman for the county attorney’s office, said after the verdict that prosecutors had no choice but to take the case to trial. “We respect the right of the defendants to protest, but we also respect the law, and the law doesn’t distinguish what causes are worth breaking the law for,” she said.
The jury had sent the a judge a note asking if they could convict but impose no fine at all. The judge responded that some fine was mandated by the law. The judge then waived the one penny fine and all court costs. Bonus nicety: The arresting officer testified that he had shaken the couple's hands before taking them into custody. (Tipped by JMG reader Rob)

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