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'Irvine 11' case goes to the jury

September 20, 2011 |  5:48 pm

Irvine 11 defendants1

After two full days of closing statements from six defense attorneys and the prosecution, the fate of the so-called Irvine 11 is now in the hands of the jury.

Deliberations are set to begin Wednesday morning. Defense attorneys said the seven UC Irvine and three UC Riverside students  were defenders of the Constitution when they shouted in protest as israeli Ambassador Michael Oren tried to give a prepared speech on U.S.-Israeli relations.

The students are being tried on misdemeanor charges of conspiracy to commit a crime and disrupting a public meeting. They face up to six months in jail if convicted.

On Monday, prosecutor Dan Wagner argued that the "right to free speech is not absolute."

He said the students, by interrupting Oren's speech in the manner they did, violated the 1st Amendment by substantially limiting the ambassador's ability to communicate his ideas.

Wagner said censorship of ideas breaks down a free exchange of information.

"Who is the censor in this case?" he asked the jury. "Right there -- 10 of them."

Then the defense attorneys took up much of Tuesday arguing that what their clients did was a legal form of civil disobedience.

The Muslim students "are serving our society with their conscience," said Jacqueline Goodman, one of six defense attorneys.

She said the students left plenty of time for Oren to finish his speech after they were escorted out of the ballroom. Oren did complete his address but cut out a planned question-and-answer session.

Lisa Holder, another defense lawyer, said the students' shouted comments were certainly not polite but were protected by the 1st Amendment.

The students are on trial, she said, because of what they expressed -- criticism of Israel’s position regarding Palestinians -- not for interrupting Oren.

"Ultimately what was disruptive was the message," Lisa Holder, another defense attorney, said in calling for acquittal.


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Photo:  Some of the defendants in the so-called Irvine 11 case in court on Monday. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press.