San Diego

The state Supreme Court rejected an appeal Thursday by 15 anti-nuclear demonstrators who were convicted of trespassing at General Dynamics.

Only Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird voted to grant a hearing to the demonstrators, who wanted to introduce evidence that they were acting to prevent a violation of international law. Four votes are needed for a hearing by the seven-member court.

In recent weeks, the court has refused to consider a variety of defenses offered by groups of anti-nuclear demonstrators, including arguments that trespassing was necessary to avert a greater evil and that a good-faith belief in one's actions rebutted charges of maliciously obstructing a roadway.

The San Diego protesters were arrested in November, 1983, in a parking lot at the General Dynamics plant. They said they were trying to meet with company officials to persuade them to stop making cruise missiles.

They were convicted of trespassing and given sentences that ranged from $100 fines and eight days of public service to 90 days in jail. Some were freed on bail while their appeals were pending, while others have served their sentences.

In their Supreme Court appeal, the demonstrators challenged the trial court's refusal to let the jury hear their evidence that construction of the missiles violates international law.

"The research, development and manufacture of nuclear weapons violates numerous principles of international law" as well as several United Nations resolutions and international treaties, said the demonstrators' attorney, Arthur Campbell.

Citing state laws that allow use of reasonable force to prevent a dangerous felony, Campbell said the demonstrators were "privileged, if not obliged," to try to prevent crimes by General Dynamics officials.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World