Terry Tells Jury: 'I Have to Face God Someday'

Times Staff Writer

Comparing himself to civil rights leaders who "stood up to . . . tyranny," anti-abortion leader Randall Terry tried one last time Wednesday to persuade a jury, in the name of justice, to find him and his co-defendants innocent of wrongdoing.

In the closing argument in his trial on charges of trespassing and conspiracy, Terry, 30-year-old founder of Operation Rescue, reminded the Municipal Court jury of periods in history when blacks were relegated to the backs of buses and women had no right to vote.

'These Dark Hours'

"But during these dark hours, there were people who stood up to the tyranny," Terry said. "And what did these people have in common? Susan B. Anthony arrested, Rosa Parks arrested, Dr. (Martin Luther) King arrested. But being arrested is not a crime."

And like those activists, Terry said, he hopes to be vindicated.

Terry is one of five anti-abortion activists being tried on a host of misdemeanor charges stemming from the March 25 blockade of a women's clinic on Westmoreland Avenue.

Terry is representing himself, as are co-defendants Jeff White, 31, and Michael McMonagle, 36. Donald Bennette, 36, and Andrew Eppink, also on trial, are being represented by counsel.

As members of the defense team presented their final arguments to the jury, they reiterated a key contention--that political pressure from key city officials prompted Los Angeles police to arrest and abuse anti-abortion demonstrators at the March sit-in.

And while never admitting that they broke the law, the defense team continually referred to a much higher law than that set forth by the state.

"One of the reasons I'm in this is because as an individual I have to face God someday," Terry said.

" 'Woe to those who decree unjust situations,' " said Terry, quoting from the Book of Isaiah.

He earlier referred to the "inalienable rights" guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence.

"God gives people rights, and the founders of our country knew that," said Terry, who later added that he wanted to be able to tell his yet-unborn grandchildren that "I did all I could during that hour of history" when abortion was legal.

Municipal Judge Richard A. Paez ruled before the trial began that the "necessity" defense, which holds that laws can be broken in the interest of preventing greater harm, did not apply in this case because abortion is legal.

Yet the moot argument has been brought up constantly, much to the annoyance of the judge, who has in the past threatened the defendants with contempt. On Wednesday he had to order the jury at least eight times to disregard the statements made by the defense.

In the end, Terry conceded that the morality of abortion would not be decided in a Los Angeles municipal courtroom.

"You are not voting to overturn Roe vs. Wade," Terry told the jurors, referring to the landmark decision that legalized abortion. "If you acquit us, you're not voting to overthrow the government. You are not voting for anarchy. What you are calling for is justice."

Closing arguments are expected to conclude today, at which time jurors will begin deliberations.

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