COLUMN: Vin Suprynowicz
'You are not to reference the Constitution ... '
Protesting a Denver ordinance against bearing arms, business owner and Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Rick Stanley late last year strapped on a hip holster bearing a .380 Beretta (fellow protester Duncan Philp chose a shoulder rig) during a Dec. 15 rally celebrating the 210th anniversary of the Bill of Rights.
He'd advertised what he was going to do and invited Denver police to come get him. They did. He was peacefully arrested by 18 officers, and brought to trial on May 15 in the municipal court of Judge Robert L. Patterson.
It was defense attorney Paul Grant's voir dire questioning of a potential juror who was also a police officer that gave the first indication of the way things were going to go in Judge Patterson's courtroom.
"I asked her when you became a police officer didn't you take an oath to protect and defend the constitutions of the United States and the state of Colorado. She said, 'I guess I did; I can't remember.' I asked her were you ever instructed in those constitutional rights, and she said no.
"Then I asked her, if the judge were to instruct you that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the defendant a right to keep and bear arms, do you think you could follow his instructions?"
Stanley describes "pandemonium" erupting in the Denver courtroom halfway through his attorney's question, the city attorney leaping to his feet to object as the judge banged his gavel.
Dismissing the prospective jurors for lunch, Judge Patterson began to lecture Grant, instructing him, according to both Grant's recollection and Stanley's, "I already sent you an order in this case. The order has been mailed to your offices. You are not to mention the Constitution during this proceeding. Do you understand?"
Grant replied that he did not.
The defendant and his attorney report that the judge said, "Then I'll explain it again. You are not to reference the Constitution in these proceedings. You will not address it in voir dire, you will not address it in your opening remarks, you will not ask any questions about the Constitution when you summon your witnesses, and you will not talk about the Constitution when you give your closing arguments. Do you understand my instructions?"
A jury of five women and one man -- not including the cop -- was finally seated. Grant then presented to the judge (he was not allowed to make this argument to the jury) the affirmative defense that both the Second Amendment and the Constitution of Colorado, Article II, protect the defendant's right to keep and bear arms, citing a Colorado Supreme Course as a controlling precedent.
But Judge Patterson rejected that defense argument along with all others, replying (according to Grant, Stanley and another witness) that precedents of the Colorado Supreme Court and even the Constitution of Colorado are not applicable in Denver, because Denver is a home-rule city.
After closing arguments, MIT graduate David Bryant, who serves as public information director for the Libertarian Party of Colorado and also as Stanley's campaign treasurer, approached Assistant City Attorney Paul Puckett to see if he could clarify his understanding of Judge Patterson's remarks.
"As I understand it," Bryant recalls saying to Puckett, "Judge Patterson just said that because I live in Denver, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of Colorado do not protect any of my rights from the government of Denver. Is that your understanding? Is the city government free to deny all the rights secured to me by the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of Colorado, so long as they only do it here, in Denver?"
"Yes," Bryant claims he was told by Puckett. "The Constitution has no force or effect in Denver, because this is a home rule city."
Reached at his office in Denver, Mr. Puckett responds: "Unfortunately the judge didn't say that, nor did I. Those were the words of Mr. Bryant, who reported them in his, whatever, on the Internet, not a very unbiased observer. What I did tell him in the courtroom was that Denver, as a home-rule city, has a right to pass reasonable regulations on the carrying of weapons. That's under their home-rule status and the constitution of the state of Colorado, and I referred him to a recent court of appeals case finding that ordinance constitutional. But no, the rest of it is fiction."
(Judge Patterson did not return my calls.)
Rick Stanley's jury reached a unanimous "guilty" verdict after deliberating one hour. Stanley could face a $999 fine and up to a year in jail at sentencing, now scheduled for July 25. Stanley says he'll appeal.
The statists currently running our legal system will insist this is the way things are supposed to go, of course -- if there's any constitutional problem with the victim disarmament statute it'll be decided at the appellate level, years from now, assuming Stanley and co-defendant Philp can afford the tens of thousands of dollars necessary to get that far.
But that's pernicious nonsense. What other constitutional rights could be violated so blatantly, and with such impunity? If the Denver City Council passed an ordinance banning Presbyterian sermons within city limits; or free speech by anyone but Republicans (and then only on Tuesdays from noon to 3), would Judge Patterson sit there and simper, "I have no choice but to enforce the law as written. The defendant was clearly caught conducting a Presbyterian religious service within the city limits"?
I don't think so. I think it's just our gun rights.
To contribute to the appeals fund, send checks to attorney Paul Grant "for the defense of Rick Stanley and Duncan Philp" at 6426 S. Quebec St., Englewood, Colo. 80111.
Vin Suprynowicz, the Review-Journal's assistant editorial page editor, is author of "The Ballad of Carl Drega." His column appears Sunday.
Reached at his office in Denver, Mr. Puckett responds: "Unfortunately the judge didn't say that, nor did I. Those were the words of Mr. Bryant, who reported them in his, whatever, on the Internet, not a very unbiased observer. What I did tell him in the courtroom was that Denver, as a home-rule city, has a right to pass reasonable regulations on the carrying of weapons. That's under their home-rule status and the constitution of the state of Colorado, and I referred him to a recent court of appeals case finding that ordinance constitutional.
Just goes to show the internet and some of it's authors
s t r e c h the truth and sometime's, blatantly LIES!
Rick Stanley's jury reached a unanimous "guilty" verdict after deliberating one hour.
That's about it. Both sides of the story. If we could get the transctipts we could see what was recorded concerning the Judge's remarks. If there was, indeed, a letter sent to defense, denying them the use of a constitutional defense, I would expect Stanley's team to release it very soon.
Just goes to show the internet and some of it's authors s t r e c h the truth and sometime's, blatantly LIES!
Of course internet authors lie. Not all of them and not all the time. However they (and we) have the same faults and quirks as do the rest of the world. I seem to remember a rather famous fellow once said, "The TRUTH will out!"
If this is a Municipal Court case, which I suspect it is since it involves the jurisdiction of the City of Denver, there usually is NO transcript of the court proceedings. Transcripts are not required in most jurisdictions (states) until a case reaches the level of a Court of Record, which is usually a Circuit or Superior Court, whichever a particular state calls it.
This would mean that the facts of what actually was or was not said in this case will be illusive into eternity. Another words, its your word against my word. I would also suspect that if there were a recorder present, were the charges to be true, you can rest assured that no sane Jurist or Prosecutor would ever speak on the record as alleged in this commentary.
For the record, were those exact words actually spoken and were the restrictions made as alleged, it would be overturned upon appeal and in most states, certainly in my former jurisdiction, turned over to both the judicial ethics investigators and the ethics counsel or committee of the bar association for severe action, probably disbarment and removal from the bench, respectively.
Sadly for the law and right in general, we'll never know under these apparent circumstances.....
The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.
The only criminal class native to the United States is Congress.
Sniper, yes ... that's a given, and unfortunately a fact of life. However, with what I learned about this particular Rick Stanley situation (or lack there of), was that Rick Stanley and his cohorts, again seemed to have blown the situation way out of proportion.
Wouldn't you agree?
And personally, I believe that type of show-boating on Rick Stanley's part, adds to his lack of credibility and causes more harm than good.
Yes, I agree. He does tend to blow things way out of proportion. Sometimes that is necessary, however, to make a point. I just wonder if he's doing our cause more harm than good with this type of behavior. It's certainly not winning us any public relations wars.
I agree that Stanley's actions were not well thought out and was merely showboating for the news impact. I think he was ill-advised to take on that law in that particular fashion.
Marlin, I know that most muni cases are un-recorded. I've always felt that it should be required in any case which might result in incarceration. I know of two cases personally, where the judge (note the use of lowercase) specifically denied the use of Constitutionaly protected rights as a defense. I also know that one was not allowed to use the concept that jurors are to judge the law, as well as the defendant's actions, in several of the courts in San Diego. We had one lawyer spend a weekend in jail because he mentioned that.
Help me here; the Constitution, the highest law in the land, is pre-empted in a little place called Denver?
Seems somewhere, I read about a doctrine of pre-emption, wherein, if the Feds say you can, the states, counties, cities, etc. are powerless to say no; it's like the general said -Do this, and a
colonel, captain, or whatever said NO. My sense says, listen to the General, since all the rest must.
Seems like a really expensive process, to make a point, but I don't think the jurist under discussion will have any swing , in the long run.
We need to support this, as it could be ME/US, tomorrow.
Don't start no s**t and there won't be none, Terry
Denver has a long history of using the “home rule” thing, to ignore/override whatever law/laws the city feels are appropriate in a given case. Does not matter if it is federal or state law. They act like they are their own country.