Jury Selection Continues in Sanctuary Case
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ A federal judge said he hoped to speed up questioning today of prospective jurors for the trial of 11 sanctuary movement defendants, including a minister, two priests and a nun.
U.S. District Judge Earl H. Carroll questioned 11 possible jurors Tuesday and excused three, including a nurse who said she sympathized with the movement to smuggle Central American refugees into the country and could ″not even remotely″ make an impartial judgment.
The judge said he expected today’s questioning to move more quickly. At least 32 of 80 prospective jurors were expected to be questioned before a panel of 12 jurors and two alternates would be decided.
The defendants are charged with conspiracy and a variety of other counts, including smuggling, transporting and concealing illegal aliens and encouraging illegal aliens to cross the border.
Carroll asked the prospective jurors whether they had opinions about the sanctuary movement, whether they had had any problems with the U.S. Border Patrol and whether they could view members of the clergy the same as other criminal defendants.
The defendants contend they violated no laws and were compelled by their religious beliefs to bring in Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees who are fleeing political oppression in their countries.
But Prosecutor Donald M. Reno Jr., a special assistant U.S. attorney, has said the Central Americans were merely fleeing poverty and were not entitled to asylum in the United States.
Carroll previously barred the defense from contending during the trial that the sanctuary movement members were acting on their religious beliefs or to uphold international law regarding refugees.
The defendants also say the government improperly conducted its investigation of the case, including infiltrating churches and church groups and taping proceedings. The government decided last week not to use the 91 recordings in presenting its case, but the defense said it would use parts of 21 tapes.
The defendants include two men considered the founders of the sanctuary movement, Quaker activist James A. Corbett, 52, a retired rancher, and the Rev. John M. Fife III, 45, a Presbyterian minister, both of Tucson.
Other members of the clergy inclde the Rev. Anthony Clark, 37, of Nogales, Ariz.; the Rev. Ramon Dagoberto Quinones, 49, of Nogales, Mexico; and Sister Darlene Nicgorski, 41, of Phoenix.
The other defendants are Philip Willis-Conger, 27, Tucson; Mary K. Doan Espinoza, 30, Nogales, Ariz.; Peggy Hutchinson, 30, Tucson; Wendy LeWin, 26, Phoenix; Nena McDonald, 38, Lubbock, Texas; and Maria del Socorro Pardo de Aguilar, 58, Nogales, Mexico.
Charges against two other people indicted in January were dismissed, and three others pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts.