Cassini protesters might get ear for their argument

By Marilyn Meyer
November 14, 1997

TITUSVILLE, Fla. - Brevard County Court Judge Ken Friedland refused to hand down a blanket ruling Thursday that would prevent a group of Cassini protesters from talking about nuclear fallout during their defense against trespass charges.

During the Oct. 4 demonstration, 27 people were arrested for trespassing at Cape Canaveral Air Station in protest of the Cassini mission.

Cassini was successfully launched Oct. 15 carrying 72 pounds of radioactive plutonium used to generate electricity on a research mission to Saturn.

Protesters feared the cancer-causing plutonium would be released during a launch accident, or that it may be released if there is an accident in 1999 when the craft passes close by the during a maneuver called a flyby.

Assistant State Attorney Mark McQuagge had filed a motion asking that the defense not be allowed to present testimony regarding nuclear fallout, nuclear holocaust, radiation fallout, radiation testing, past nuclear bombing and similar phrases on grounds that it would be highly and fairly prejudicial.

"The testimony would serve the purpose to outrage the jury," McQuagge said. "All it will do is confuse the issue."

Defense Attorney Lisa Kuhlman Tietig argued that the state did not show why the testimony would be prejudicial. She was representing five defendants: Arthur Laffin, Joshua Rumschlag, Dorothy Brownold, Richard Ochs and Barbara Wiedner.

Tietig also said that if the testimony was blocked, it would violate the defendants' right to a trial by jury by placing the court in the position of evaluating whether or not a defense is valid.

"I don't see how I can rule on it until I hear what the evidence will be," Judge Friedland said, saying he would rule on the issue during the trial.

Work is under way to consolidate 14 cases into one trial, which Friedland said he will do if all the defendants agree. Information as to the status of the other 13 cases was not available Thursday.

(From: "GEC, Inc." via Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice,, 11/14/97; courtesy of Proposition One Committee)

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