The trial of anti-abortion activists accused of plotting a clinic blockade continues to get more absurd. First, lead defendant Lauren Handy wanted to show the jury photos of fetuses she kept in her refrigerator, a request the judge denied. Then, on the first day of jury selection, supporters of Handy and her four co-defendants stood outside courthouse doors where prospective jurors often enter and passed out fliers falsely claiming the Washington, D.C., abortion clinic they invaded had engaged in wrongdoing. (The judge warned their attorneys this could be construed as jury tampering.)
And now, a nun appears to have engaged in witness tampering by making the sign of the cross at a woman who took the stand for the prosecution and then following her into a hallway in the federal courthouse to recite Hail Marys. That’s according to WUSA9, which has been covering the trial:
Last week, Kollar-Kotelly was forced to briefly pause the trial and hold a sealed bench conference after someone in the public gallery yelled, “I love you Caroline!” at a government witness, anti-abortion activist Caroline Davis, after court broke for the day but before her testimony was finished. On Monday, Kollar-Kotelly again had to admonish a member of the public gallery, a woman dressed as a nun, after she learned she’d been making the sign of the cross toward a witness while she was on the stand and had approached her and begun saying the Hail Mary to her face in a hallway during a break in testimony.
Prior to Monday’s testimony, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued an order putting all transcripts from jury selection under seal “in light of certain issues with witness tampering.” That was before the Hail Mary incident, and this is just their supporters’ behavior at trial.
During the October 2020 clinic invasion, an abortion patient from Pennsylvania felt she had no choice but to climb through a window in order to make it to her appointment. She testified last week that the activists grabbed at her and told her she was going to hell. Prosecutors played surveillance video where she is “visibly distraught” and yelling through tears at a police officer, “Why are you allowing them to do this? Please stop. Leave me alone.”
A patient from Ohio with a nonviable pregnancy said at trial that she arrived to the clinic on the day of the blockade having already taken a drug to induce labor as part of a multi-day procedure. She said she was already in extreme pain, and video footage showed activists blocking the doorways so she and her husband couldn’t enter. She collapsed to the ground. “We were not able to understand what was happening,” she said. “[My husband] was just telling them, ‘Please let her go. Please let her go.’” A nurse was eventually able to help her inside.
The defendants are accused of violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, passed in 1994 amid escalating anti-abortion violence. They each face up to 11 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $350,000. U.S. prosecutors rested their case on Monday and now defense attorneys will take their turn, and Handy and three other defendants are expected to take the stand. Should be very normal!