A District of Columbia judge hearing the case of nine defendants ar
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A District of Columbia judge hearing the case of nine defendants arrested during last month’s anti-abortion demonstration at the Supreme Court said he also marched against abortion that day.
Just after the first witness began testifying Thursday, Superior Court Judge Michael Hannon startled both sides by telling the courtroom that he participated in the annual March for Life on Jan. 22, the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
But Hannon said he left the march before it reached the Supreme Court building, where the nine were arrested and charged with illegally demonstrating.
The 67-year-old judge, who is trying the case without a jury, did not explain why he waited until after the trial began to reveal his participation in the march.
The American Bar Association’s Code of Judicial Conduct states that ″a judge should disqualify himself in a proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.″
Had Hannon revealed his activities earlier, prosecutors could have asked him to step down.
But because Hannon did not disclose his participation in the protest until after the first witness had testified, his backing out would bar a retrial. The Constitution’s safeguards against ″double jeopardy″ - forcing someone to stand trial twice for the same crime - took effect after the first witness took the stand.
Immediately after Hannon’s disclosure, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lizabeth McKibben asked the judge to step down from the case. Prosecutors later withdrew the request and decided to go through with the trial.
When Hannon asked defense lawyer J. Andrew Chopivsky whether he was satisfied with the judge’s decision to remain in the case, Chopivsky said, ″Oh, yes.″
Hannon was appointed to the Superior Court by President Richard M. Nixon in 1972 after serving more than 10 years as chief of the civil division of the U.S. attorney’s office.