The Eco-Hero Who Didn't Stand A Chance
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"When the judge and the prosecutor found that out, the prosecutor, especially, flipped his shit,” DeChristopher said. “He insisted that the judge tell the jurors that this information was not true. The judge pulled most of the jurors in[to] the chambers and questioned them one at a time. He talked about what was in the pamphlet. He said that regardless of what the pamphlet said it was not their job to decide if this is right or wrong, but to listen to what he said was the law and follow that even if they thought it was morally unjust. They were not allowed to use [their] conscience. They were told they would be violating their oath if they decided this on conscience rather than the evidence that he told them to listen to. I was sitting in that chamber and could see one person after another accept this notion. I could see it in their faces, that they had to do what they were told even if they thought it was morally unjust. That is a scary thing to witness in another human being. I saw it in one person after another brought in the courtroom, sitting at the end of a long table in front of the paternalistic figure of [the] judge with all the majesty around him. They accepted it. They did not question it. It gave me a really good understanding of how some of the great human atrocities happened with the consent of the population, that people can accept what is happening, that it is not their job to question whether any of this is right or wrong.”
As the trial began, the judge refused to let DeChristopher’s defense team inform the jury that the auction was later overturned and declared illegal. The judge also refused to let the defense team inform the jury that DeChristopher had raised the money for the initial payment and offered it to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which then refused to accept it.
"We weren’t able to tell the jury either of those things,” he said. “They never knew that the auction was overturned. They never knew I offered the BLM the money. They were told over and over by the judge they were not allowed to use their conscience. When the verdict came it was not a surprise.”
"When our Founding Fathers created the jury system they called it the best defense against legislative tyranny,” he said. “They expected that if the government was passing laws that were out of line with the values of the community, then people would break those laws and take their case before a jury of their peers who would decide whether or not that person’s actions were justified. That was the system our country was founded upon. That shifted radically as the role of the jury has been minimized in our criminal justice system. Juries are no longer given the opportunity to weigh all the factors of a case and are specifically told they are not allowed to use their conscience. It is not their job to decide if things are right or wrong. This is a drastic departure from the system that was originally created in this country.”
When I asked DeChristopher why he did not work within the system, perhaps by backing a progressive Democrat, he answered that “if there was such a thing I might consider it.”
"I don’t see anyone in our political system advocating for significant change,” he said. “I haven’t ignored the political system. I paid attention when the Waxman-Markey [cap and trade] bill was being debated. I saw that there was a Republican amendment that if energy prices in any region of the country ever go up by more than 10 percent the whole bill is null and void. In other words, if the survival of our children ever costs more than about $300 a year per household, we are going to stop and give up. Both sides debated for over an hour whether it would or not ever cost $300. But there was no one who ever stood up and said maybe the cost was worth it, maybe that was too low a price to put on the heads of your children, maybe it was immoral to put any price on the heads of our children. There was no one standing up and addressing the severity of climate change.”