Hundreds of DAPL protesters charged with misdemeanors requesting jury trials
The Dakota Access Pipeline protests may be over, at least for now. But the full story is far from over.
Demonstrators arrested over the summer are now getting their day in court. Jury trials for misdemeanor charges are not uncommon. What is unusual is the number of jury trials that are on the docket for the coming months involving pipeline protesters.
Protesters who marched against the Dakota Access Pipeline months ago are now making their way into the justice system. Many demonstrators who were charged with misdemeanor crimes are requesting jury trials.
"The reason for a jury trial is to give their opportunity to tell their side of the story to a jury and have a jury decide if they're guilty or not guilty," says Kent Morrow, Public Defender.
Morrow is defending 25 protesters. It's a constitutional right for citizens to have their day in court. That day is fast approaching for hundreds of defendants.
"I guess they're more inclined. They want to be tried by a jury of their peers as opposed to a single judge and perhaps they maybe they like their odds better," says Andrew Delain, Burleigh County Assistant State's Attorney.
Disorderly conduct, criminal trespass and obstructing highways are a few of the more common offenses that will be decided by a six-person jury.
"It's going to be difficult, and it's been proven to be difficult, to get all of these cases in through the jury system in a timely fashion, that's why it will probably take many many months to get these cases concluded," says Morrow.
Morton County will be processing many more protester trials than Burleigh County.
Delain adds there are some protester cases being handled by the Bismarck City Attorney, such as the event at Kirkwood Mall.