Closing Arguments Heard In MOVE Trial
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Jury deliberations began Friday in the riot and assault trial of the only adult MOVE member to survive the May 13 fire that left 11 MOVE members dead and a neighborhood in ruins following a confrontation with police.
The jury in the trial of Ramona Africa adjourned for the night without reaching a verdict after three hours of deliberation.
Closing arguments were interrupted Friday by an emotional outburst from ex- MOVE member Louise James, sister of MOVE founder John Africa and mother of another MOVE member.
Ms. James fell on the floor moaning and wailing during Assistant District Attorney Joseph McGill’s statements.
As Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Stiles motioned for the jury to leave, she began screaming, ″They killed my son,″ and had to be escorted from the courtroom by sheriff’s deputies.
Both John Africa and Frank James Africa were identified as victims of the fire by pathologists hired by a commission investigating the confrontation.
On Tuesday, MOVE member Sue Africa caused the jury to be sent out of the courtroom when she testified emotionally about her son, Tomasa, another victim of the fire that was sparked by a police bomb.
Police had gone to the fortified MOVE dwelling on Osage Avenue to serve arrest warrants on Ramona Africa, 30, and three other members of the radical group and to get them to vacate the house.
After an early morning shootout followed by a daylong standoff, police said they dropped a bomb on the MOVE roof to clear the way for them to lob tear gas canisters into the residence and force MOVE members out. The resulting fire quickly spread, destroying 61 homes.
Only Ramona Africa and 13-year-old Michael Ward, then called Birdie Africa, are known to have survived.
Ms. Africa, 30, is charged with riot, aggravated assault, resisting arrest and conspiracy.
In her closing statement, Ramona Africa, who represented herself throughout the trial, once again repeated claims that the city and police had conspired to annihilate the MOVE organization.
Leaning directly on the jury box and staring into the faces of the seven men and five women, Ms. Africa told the packed courtroom that the only thing she is guilty of is ″taking a firm stand against injustice.″
As on previous days, she wore a sleeveless blouse that exposed the burn scars that she received on her arm during the fire.
McGill told the jurors that Ms. Africa is undeniably guilty. He read aloud transcript statements in which Ms. Africa told police on May 13, via a loudspeaker, that ″they would be left where they stand″ if they tried to come into the MOVE house.
″She gave direct declarations of intent to resist and riot,″ he said.
MOVE members, whom the prosecution described as all having a ″cult-type mentality of resistence,″ have no regard for law and order and were thought to be ″extremely dangerous,″ McGill said.
Ms. Africa said she was only standing up for her beliefs when she remained barricaded with other MOVE members in the house.
″(MOVE’s) intent is not to kill anybody. Our intent is to kill this prejudice against MOVE people that causes hysteria and mistreatment,″ she said, referring to earlier claims of police harassment.