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by Mary Shelton
Saturday, Dec. 23, 2000 at 7:00 AM
Frank Esposito stood tall, as the jurors delivered their verdict, not once looking him in the eye, as they convicted him of two misdemeanors related to the Nov. 1, 1999 freeway demonstration, which took place to protest the death of Tyisha Miller.
The jurors walked back into the courtroom laughing and smiling, after only 15 minutes spent deliberating the fate of activist Frank Esposito, who was tried by Judge Robert Spitzer for his role in a 1998 demonstration which shut down the 91 freeway in Riverside, California.
Esposito was convicted of violating penal codes 647c and 370, and is to be sentenced on Jan. 5, pending a probationary report. He faces up to six months in jail and a $1000 fine. Afterwards, the jury forewoman, said that the reason for the speedy verdict, was "so obvious...This is the greatest country, and you have free speech, but not if you violate the law." When asked about her feelings about the shooting of Tyisha Miller, who was killed by four Riverside Police Department officers in 1998, she said, don't even get me started on that. Finally, when prodded, she said, that Miller deserved to get shot because she had a gun on her lap. During jury selection, one of the key issues had been that Esposito was not allowed to mention the shooting of Tyisha Miller, during his questioning.
District Attorney, Lucy Heil had requested that restrictions be placed on the evidence allowed into the trial and tried to orally persuade Judge Switzer to disallow evidence to be admitted by the defense relating to Miller, free speech, selective prosecution, jury nullification or the issue of whether the police failed to act to disperse an unlawful assembly, or in fact, even entrapped the protesters.
Esposito, who represented himself, as he was unable to obtain affordable legal counsel who would take his case to trial, was philisophical about his loss. "I wanted to bring the issue of Tyisha Miller's death and the protests which resulted, to a courtroom with a jury," he said. Something which has not happened to this date, and likely never will, because the DA's office refuses to file criminal charges against the police officers who fired 12 bullets into an unconscious woman's back, a mere six minutes after arriving on the scene purportedly to save her life.
On Nov. 1, 1999, sixty demonstrators prayed for five minutes on the freeway, while 80 police officers and California Highway Patrol stood and watched, and videotaped. Three months later, 20 demonstrators, the most active, were selected to be prosecuted by the District Attorney's office.
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