The Trial of the Catonsville Nine
[NOTE: This is neither a script nor a transcript of the 1971 film version but
a rough adaptation of the play by an anonymous author.]
White letters on a black screen read: A JURY OF PEERS
INT. COURTROOM - BALTIMORE, MD - DAY 1
The DEFENSE attorney looks up from his papers to address the JUDGE.
With regard to jury selection, we wish to make
one brief statement, your honor. The
defendants will not participate in any way in
the selection of the jury. That will be a
matter between the court and the U.S. attorney.
You do not wish to have the benefit of striking
out names you object to?
We do not wish any strikes whatever. We are
abstaining completely from the jury selection.
Very well. All I am going to do is to be sure
I get the names.
I am now going to do a little housekeeping.
The judge turns to the nearby court CLERK.
Bring in the prospective jurors. Swear them in.
The clerk nods and walks off.
White letters on a black screen: the Main Titles begin over the sound of the
jurors' FOOTSTEPS and other courtroom NOISES.
INT. COURTROOM - JURY SELECTION MONTAGE - DAY 1
The judge, papers in hand, addresses the prospective jurors. During this
address, the Main Titles continue to appear.
Members of this panel. In this case, the United
States government, by indictment, has commenced
a prosecution against nine defendants. This
indictment charges, in three counts, the
That the defendants did willfully and
unlawfully obliterate records of the Selective
Service System, Local Board No. 33, located in
Catonsville, Maryland; and did willfully and
knowingly interfere with the administration of
the Military Selective Service Act of 1967, by
removing and burning the records of Local Board
No. 33 located in Catonsville, Maryland; and by
disrupting the official activities at the
location of the Local Board No. 33.
(directly to the jurors)
The indictment further charges that the
defendants aided and abetted one another in
committing these alleged offenses. Each of these
defendants has pleaded innocent of these charges.
Accordingly, the burden of proof is upon the
government to prove the guilt of any of the
defendants beyond a reasonable doubt. Now, I
want to ask each of the prospective jurors some
The MAIN TITLES end. The questioning moves quickly, condensing hours into
mere minutes. We RAPIDLY CUT BACK AND FORTH between the judge and whichever
juror he queries. Occasionally, we see the defense attorney looking on with
an unconcerned air.
Mr. Starlings, what is your position?
I work for the National Security Agency.
Do you feel that your position in the
government would make it difficult or
impossible for you to do equal justice between
the government and the defendants in this case?
You may step down.... Mr. Jones. You served in
World War I?
Yes, sir. I was in the Army, American
Expeditionary Force, World War I.
Have you been active in the American Legion or
other activities since? Have you taken any
position with respect to protests against the
Vietnam war? Have you taken any position on
You may step down.... Mrs. Kilmurray, you say
that at one time you worked for the Department
That is right. I was the Chief of Position
Classification at the U.S. Army at Edgewood
Do you feel that your experience in that job
would make it impossible, or would make it
difficult, for you to do equal justice between
the government and the defendants in this case?
No, I do not.
You may step down.... Mr. Seidel. I believe
that you answered "yes" to the question that
you had served in the Armed Forces.
Yes, sir. It was in the Second World War.
Have you taken any position, any public position,
with respect to the war in Vietnam?
You may step down.... Mrs. Smith, you answered,
I believe, that you are now working for the
Yes. As a management analyst with the Army.
Is there anything about your job, or anything
about your experience, or any other reason at
all, which you feel would make it difficult for
you to do impartial justice between the
government on the one side, and the defendants
on the other?
You may step down... Mr. Buchanan, you were, I
believe you said, in the military service at
During what conflict was that?
The Korean War and the Cuban crisis.
Do you feel that your experience in the service
would make it difficult for you to do equal
You may step down... State your name, sir.
My name is Eric Smith, Jr.
Mr. Smith, you say that you are the branch
chief of the Department of Defense at Fort
Are your duties classified? Or can you tell me
what the branch chief does, what you do?
I am an industrial engineer in charge of
construction and space allocation for the
National Security Agency and the Department of
And you served in the Armed Forces heretofore in
one of the conflicts?
I have served in the Armed Forces, yes, sir,
Would your experience as a former Military
Policeman make it difficult for you to decide
this case fairly?
No, sir, I don't think it would influence or
bias my opinion.
You may step down... Mr. Austin, you have served
in the military?
World War II for three years, 1942 to 1945, in
the U.S. Navy.
Do you know of any reason why you would not be
able to decide the case solely on the evidence?
No, sir. I am a very conscientious person.
I hope all the jurors will be. You may step
down... Mr. Raymond Steer. You have served, I
believe, in the Armed Forces?
I started with the 29th Division here at Fort
Meade and I switched to the Air Force.
Does anything in your experience make it
difficult for you to do justice in this case?
You may step down... Mr. Johnston, have you
served in the military service?
I was in the Army, yes, sir.
Well, I was on active duty in the Army, then I
was in the Army Reserves and I was at the rank
of Sergeant E-5 when I got out.
You may step down... Mr. Bergman, you have a
contract with the government, is that right?
Yes, sir. With NASA.
And you also were in the Armed Forces?
Is there anything about your experience in the
Army which would make it difficult for you to
do justice between the government on the one
side and these defendants on the other?
I do not believe so.
Are you prejudiced in any way, for or against
the defendants and the position they have
Well, I believe I have already formed an
I think we have run into difficulties here.
You may be excused... Mr. Fanzone, you have
been in the Armed Forces?
I served three years in the U.S. Army, from 1961
Would anything make it difficult for you to do
equal justice here?
No, your honor.
Mr. Davis, you have served in the Armed Forces?
Yes, I was in the U.S. Navy in World War II,
between 1943 and 1946.
Would anything in your experience in the Navy,
or since, make it difficult for you to do equal
justice between the government on the one hand
and these defendants on the other?
You may step down... Are the government and the
defense ready to have the jury sworn?
Our first view of the PROSECUTION.
The government is ready.
We are ready.
(to the court clerk)
Swear the jury.
The clerk grabs his Bible.
White letters on a black screen read: THE FACTS OF THE CASE
INT. COURTROOM - DAY 2
The jury is seated. They listen attentively to Mrs. Murphy, a WITNESS,
giving testimony on the stand. Several boxes of charred papers are nearby.
We had just come back from lunch. A gentleman
came up the steps. I looked at him and I said:
"Could I help you, sir?" Before I could say
anything else, all of these people came in. I
asked them not to come in. I begged them not
to come in the office but they did. I was so
confused and upset at that point. They utterly
terrified us. We were just terrified. Of
course, they immediately went to the files. I
noticed one gentleman was carrying a trash
burner. I begged them not to take the files.
I begged them. One of them went right over to
the files and I could see him read the label on
the 1-A Qualified drawer. He just emptied all
those sheets right into the trash burner. I
begged them and pleaded with them but it was to
no avail and I might say that I have never been
treated with such bad manners in my whole life
and with such disrespect or uncharity.
Strike it out. The defendants are not being
tried for their manners.
What happened after they emptied the drawers?
I took hold of the trash burner and I tried to
pull it away but I could not get it away from
them, naturally. And in the scuffle I cut my
leg and my hand. Then they ran down the stairs.
I followed to the edge of the building and saw
the fire and I came running back up and I said
to the girls: "My God, they are burning our
And the 378 files taken would include all
information necessary to draft young men?
That is right, everything that concerns a man.
What effect on the functioning of Local Board
33 has the incident of May 17 had?
It has given us a tremendous amount of work and
it certainly has inconvenienced our boys.
Have you yourself done any work in restoring
I would estimate that in the general
reconstruction, getting the papers from the
Armed Forces, making lists, reconstructing the
cover sheets, writing them all up again -- all
of this -- I would estimate that, myself, alone,
I have spent at least eighty hours. The other
clerks spent about forty hours working with me.
We also had three supervisors from State
Headquarters working for three weeks.
Have you finished reconstructing these 378 files
as of today?
The defense attorney cross examines the witness.
Mrs. Murphy, at the time of the action about
which you testified, what did the several people
who came into the office say to you?
There was a lot of conversation: "We don't want
to hurt you. We have no intention of hurting
you." Some of it was about the war in Vietnam:
that this is not a good war and that we
shouldn't be there. One of them said: "You
send our boys away to be killed." Father Philip
Berrigan told me he didn't want to hurt me and
I am sure he meant it.
Can you remember this having been said: "Don't
fight." "We don't mean you any bodily harm."
"You are helping in the deaths of American
That is right. Yes, I remember that, sir.
When you speak of an injury you received, would
that be an injury for which you treated yourself
with a Band-Aid?
Well, I went to the doctor, really, because it
was -- I suppose it was maybe superficial. But
I was very, very, very, very much upset. Mental
anguish, I had.
Would you concede that the prime purpose of
the files, and the work you do, is to serve the
Yes, sir, the Army of Defense. I am part of the
Army of Defense.
Mrs. Murphy, did not some of the defendants
while in jail send you flowers and candy?
Objection, your honor.
We are not trying the manners of the defendants,
neither their good manners or their bad manners.
We are trying a specific charge.
No more questions.
White letters on a black screen: THE NINE DEFENDANTS
INT. COURTROOM - DAY 3 - DEFENDANT #1
Our first glimpse of a defendant: Catholic priest PHILIP BERRIGAN testifies
on the stand.
I am a member of a family including six boys.
All of us were born in Minnesota. My father
was railroading out there and he married my
mother who was a German immigrant. I think
perhaps some influence on my life came from
these days. Minnesota was pioneer country. We
lived on the Iron Range. Most of the people
were Scandinavians, Finlanders, Swedes, and
Norwegians. I remember my older brothers
telling at great length of the struggles they
had to survive in the bitter winters. We were
poor. I remember the Depression years very
well. I think those years had some bearing on
the inclination my life was to take. I think
this is true of my brother Dan as well and
other members of our family. We lived with
people and accepted them as they were. During
the Depression years, I remember my mother
welcoming people from the road. There were
many men in those days traveling the roads,
impoverished and desperate. Even though we did
not have too much to eat, she never refused
them. This made an early and deep impression
Will you indicate what your early education
I come from a devout Catholic family. Our
early years were more or less stereotyped. All
six boys went to parochial school, about two
miles away. We had to walk both ways and pack
our lunches. We were educated by nuns in a
rather harsh and authoritarian environment. We
graduated from a Catholic high school. I went
to work and tried to save a little money to go
to college. I was inducted into military
service after one semester of college. I
underwent training in the Deep South, first in
Georgia and later in Florida and North Carolina.
I was perceptive in a dim sort of way, noticing
the conditions of Black people in the rural
areas where we trained. I noticed and
remembered the dire poverty we encountered.
One time when we were out on maneuvers, we
happened to be trying out the rations that would
be fed us overseas. The climate was very humid
and oppressive and we were famished at the end
of the day. We came upon some Black people who
were selling whole chickens for one dollar a
piece. We had some money along. Five or six
of us bought chickens and ravenously ate them.
Then a white boy came along, grinned at us.
Said we had been eating not chicken, but
Did you experience any of the war in Europe?
I spent about a month in the British Isles. I
saw the devastation of cities, a result of the
great German air raids: Bristol, Coventry,
Sheffield, London. I think I should add, in
all candor, I was an enthusiastic participant in
World War II -- in contrast, of course, to my
present attitude, which arose because of the
influence of people who have surrounded me.
What happened after your discharge from military
I entered the Society of Saint Joseph for
training toward the priesthood. I lived with
Black seminarians. I learned from them in a
graphic way what it means to be Black in this
Where did you go after ordination?
To New Orleans, to teach in a Black high school.
Did you participate in the social struggles
then going on in the South?
Your honor, how long are we going to go on?
Very early in New Orleans I became deeply
involved in the civil rights struggle. We did
voter registration work. We worked with the
poor in the slums of New Orleans. We tried to
provide some sort of bridge between the Black
and White communities. We tried to attack
racism at its roots. We tried to open minds a
We are not trying the racial situation in the
United States, nor are we trying the high moral
character of this witness.
At any rate, I began to investigate what was
called the Cold War. I began to study how
nuclear weapons were engineered and gotten ready
for "duty" on both sides. There was a loosely
formed group of peace people operating on the
campuses. I did some work with them after
President Kennedy's assassination. When the
bombing of North Vietnam started, we began a
peace organization. We were doing very
unsophisticated and unthreatening things in
those days. We were trying to get a forum on
the war, trying to get people to listen. But I
remember even the fierce opposition even to
this. Anyone who spoke out against Vietnam was
apt to lose his coattails. I lost mine. I was
transferred to Baltimore by my superiors because
of my peace activity. The Catholic community
in Newburgh where I had been teaching was
distraught by what we were doing. I was
ordered by my superiors to keep silent. But
then Pope Paul spoke at the United Nations. I
considered this a mandate to open my mouth
What was the nature of your peace activity in
We always tried to gauge our activity in terms
of the reality of the war. We started with
prayer vigils, with meals of reconciliation,
with a few tentative marches in downtown
Baltimore. We began to demonstrate at military
bases. We went to Fort Myers, Virginia. Fort
Myers is the home of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
We tried to contact men like General Wheeler
and General Johnson, former Chiefs of Staff of
the Army, to tell them of our concerns, to sit
down with them, citizen to leader. The
military were immune from any citizen influence.
They were a law unto themselves. General
Wheeler ignored our letters. So we went to his
home and demonstrated outside. We were forced
to leave. We came back in a month's time and
were forced out again. The third time, we were
forcibly ejected. Apart from these attempts, I
also tried continually to keep in touch with the
Congress. I made a proposal to Senator
Fulbright suggesting it might be a good thing
to investigate the war in light of the moral
opinion of the nation. We planned to bring a
team of theologians to testify before the
Foreign Relations Committee. Fulbright was
partial to the idea but he never had political
leverage, particularly from the churches, so,
of course, our idea died a-borning. At
Christmas of 1967 I also spent two hours with
Secretary Rusk. I went to his office with
another clergyman. We discussed all aspects of
the war. He was very gracious but he did not
tell us anything he had not said before and that
was not enough for us.
Are there any books that influenced your
thinking on the war in Vietnam?
I was influenced by my reading on both sides of
the question. I have read all the authors on
the Vietnam war including those who wrote in
support of the war.
I would like to have this book -- "In the Name
of America" -- marked for identification.
Father Berrigan, I show you Defendant's Exhibit
No. 5. And I ask if you have read this book?
Yes, I have.
Did this book influence your thinking as to the
legal aspects of the war in Vietnam?
Yes, it did.
(to the judge)
I want to make a formal proffer. The book "In
the Name of America" has to do with the
reasonableness of the defendant's views.
The government has agreed on the sincerity of
(to the judge)
The government did not agree as to the
reasonableness of his views.
In that case, I must question the prosecution.
(to the prosecution)
Does the government contend that the
reasonableness or unreasonableness of the
defendant's view has any bearing on the issue
of intent? You had better think that over
The prosecuting attorneys consult.
Your honor, we say that a reasonable man could
have the defendant's views.
(to the judge)
Your honor, the defense has scored a capital
point. This is the first time in a trial of
this nature that such an admission has been
made by the government. But we shall return to
this matter later...
(to the defendant)
Father Berrigan, I ask you: did there come a
time, then, when you began seriously to
consider civil disobedience?
Yes. I came to the conclusion that I was in
direct line with American democratic tradition
in choosing civil disobedience in a serious
fashion. There have been times in our history
when in order to get redress, in order to get a
voice, vox populi, arising from the roots,
people have so acted. From the Boston Tea
Party, through the abolitionist and anarchist
movements, through World War I and World War II
and right on through the civil rights movement,
we have a rich tradition of civil disobedience.
Now, the action for which you are being tried
here was not the first such action you were
involved in. To state it briefly: seven months
earlier, in October 1967, you -- along with the
defendant Thomas Lewis and two others not
present poured blood over Selective Service
records in the Baltimore Customs House.
We were prepared for the blood pouring because
we had practiced civil disobedience in
Virginia. In fact, my brother and myself had
practiced civil disobedience for years by
signing complicity statements in support of
draft resisters. So four of us took our own
blood -- and when the equipment for drawing
our blood broke down, we added animal blood.
We attempted to anoint these files with the
Christian symbol of life and purification,
which is blood.
Will you explain why, with a jail sentence
staring you in the face, you felt compelled to
act again at Catonsville?
Neither at the Customs House, nor at
Catonsville, do I wish my actions reduced to a
question of acquittal or conviction. Rather, I
-- and all of us -- desire to communicate with
the bench, with the prosecution, with our
country. We have already made it clear our
dissent runs counter to more than the war which
is but one instance of American power in the
world. Latin America is another instance. So
is the Near East. This trial is yet another.
From those in power, we have met little
understanding, much silence, much scorn and
punishment. We have been accused of arrogance.
But what of the fantastic arrogance of our
leaders? What of their crimes against the
people, the poor and powerless? Still no court
will try them, no jail will receive them. They
live in righteousness. They will die in honor.
For them we have one message, for those in
whose manicured hands the power of the land
lies. We say to them: Lead us. Lead us in
justice and there will be no need to break the
law. Let the President do what his
predecessors failed to do. Let him obey the
rich less and the people more. Let him think
less of the privileged and more of the poor.
Less of America and more of the world. Let
lawmakers, judges, and lawyers think less of
the law and more of justice; less of legal
ritual, more of human rights. To our bishops
and superiors we say: Learn something about the
gospel and something about illegitimate power.
When you do, you will liquidate your
investments, take a house in the slums, or even
join us in jail. To lawyers, we say: Defend
draft resisters, ask no fees, insist on justice,
risk contempt of court, go to jail with your
clients. To the prosecution, we say: Refuse to
indict opponents of the war, prefer to resign,
practice in private. To Federal judges, we
say: Give anti-war people suspended sentences
to work for justice and peace or resign your
posts. You men of power, I also have a dream:
"Federal Judges... District Attorneys...
Marshals... Against the War in Vietnam." You
men of power, you have told us that your system
is reformable. Reform it then. And we will
help, with all our conviction and energy, in
jail or out.
INT. COURTROOM - DEFENDANT #2
Philip Berrigan is no longer on the stand. In his place is another defendant:
the bespectacled DAVID DARST.
I was not in the room when the files were taken.
Perhaps I could be called the lookout man. If
anyone came to stop us, I was to hurry in and
let the others know. One might have called it a
Bonnie and Clyde act on behalf of God and man.
Do you recall the substance with which the
records were burned?
They were burned with a kind of crude napalm.
We made it from a formula in the Special Forces
Handbook published by the School for Special
Warfare at Fort Bragg. We did not use all the
ingredients called for. We made a very crude
form of napalm, consisting of two parts
gasoline, one part soap flakes. Nor did we
cook our mix into a jelly. We left it in
liquid form so we could pour it on the files.
We felt it was fitting that this agent which
had burned human flesh in the war in Vietnam --
and in many other places -- should now be
poured on the records which gave war and
violence their cruel legitimacy.
Would you explain you intent in acting at
Catonsville other than destroying the files?
First of all to raise a cry -- an outcry -- at
what was clearly a crime, an unnecessary
suffering, a clear and wanton slaughter.
Perhaps this is similar to the case of a man in
his home who sees a crime, someone is being
attacked outside. His impulse, I think, his
basic human impulse is to cry out, to call for
help. That was one intention: an outcry that,
hopefully, would stop the crime I saw being
perpetrated. Another intention was to halt the
machine of death which I saw moving and killing.
In the same way, perhaps, a person in
Czechoslovakia, when tanks invade his country,
throws bricks into the wheels of the tanks, and
sometimes a puny effort stops a tank. This was
my hope, to hinder this war in a literal way,
an actual physical way.
Do you have any other basis for the intent you
An outcry against the fact that our country can
spend eighty billions a year chasing imaginary
enemies all around the world. I was living
last year in a poor ghetto district. I saw
many little children who did not have enough to
eat. This is an astonishing thing, that our
country cannot command the energy to give bread
and milk to children. yet it can rain fire and
death on people ten thousand miles away for
reasons that are unclear to thoughtful men.
Did your religious belief have any influence on
Well, I suppose my thinking is part of an ethic
found in the New Testament. You could say
Jesus too was guilty of assault and battery
when he cast the money changers out of the
temple and wasted their property and wealth.
He was saying it is wrong to do what you are
doing. And this was our point. We came to
realize draft files are death's own cry. We
have not been able to let sacred life and
total death live together quietly within us.
We have cried out on behalf of life. The
government has chosen to see our cry as anarchy
and arrogance. Perhaps real anarchy lies in the
acts of those who loose this plague of war upon
a proud people in face of a great and burning
doubt. This doubt cries to Heaven. Our cry,
too, goes out in the name of life. Men around
the world hear and take heart. We are one with
them. We believe that today we are at a joyful
beginning. We are together and we are not
The prosecution cross examines the defendant.
You have said elsewhere that draft files have
no right to exist. Do you believe that slum
properties have no right to exist?
Slum properties, I would say, have no right to
Would you symbolically burn down slum
How could I symbolically burn down slum
A ROAR of laughter, followed by much COMMOTION: our first glimpse of the
audience viewing the trial. The judge BANGS his gavel angrily.
If we have any more demonstrations, we are
going to clear the courtroom.
INT. COURTROOM - DEFENDANT #3
A bearded defendant, THOMAS LEWIS, testifies.
Let me speak of an experience that has bearing
on why I am here. As you recall, some years
ago, there were civil rights demonstrations at
Gwyn Oak Park here in Baltimore. The issue was
the right of the Black man to use the park. I
went there to do some sketches of the
demonstrations. When I arrived, they had just
arrested some clergymen. You know I had a
feeling that I should be where they were. I
was slowly drawn into things. I picketed for
awhile. But I was in no position
psychologically to consider civil disobedience.
Later, I became active in the Catholic
Interracial Council and in CORE. I was slowly
becoming educated in the realities around me.
My schooling went forward with my experience.
In a sense, I could have been called a very
conservative person coming out of high school,
going into art studies. It is a shocking thing,
walking a picket line for the first time,
sensing the hostility of the people, the White
people particularly when we went to suburbia to
demonstrate for open occupancy.
What first motivated you to become interested
in the issue of Vietnam?
Well, there were many factors. It is
unfortunate, reflecting on it now... In
Christianity, we are taught that all men are a
human family. Yet I was not profoundly moved
about Vietnam until my younger brother was
there, an immediate relative. Of course, in a
Christian sense, one's family is much more
broad than the immediate family. The war
helped educate me. I began to read and go to
lectures about the war. Of course, on an
artist, the visual impact of the war is
What opinion did you come to with respect to
the war in Vietnam?
I came to the conclusion that the war is
totally outrageous from the Christian point of
view. But it is not enough to say this. You
know, those terms have become almost
meaningless. The war is outrageous,
unChristian, and it is a great deal more than
On the strength of these beliefs, did you then
engage in peace activity?
Yes, after the speech of Pope Paul at the U.N.,
a group of us began what we called the
Interfaith Peace Mission of Baltimore. We were
a group of concerned people attempting to
express to others what we felt about the war.
We began with a peace vigil at one of the
churches here. We prayed for peace in response
to the invitation of religious leaders
throughout the world. We followed this with a
walk demonstrating visually our hope for peace.
Things progressed. We had visits with Maryland
Congressmen and Senators. We wrote letters to
them and delivered them personally in
Washington. We met with silence from all of
them. We met with hostility and apathy. One
of the vigils in Washington was at the home of
McNamara, another was at the home of Rusk.
Particularly Rusk indicated his lack of concern.
He said it was not his job to deal with moral
matters. He said to the clergymen in the group
that it was their responsibility to deal with the
morality of the war. We did not need his
homilies. We had been doing that for years.
So, we turned toward the military. With engaged
in conversations with the military hierarchy.
They accepted no responsibility for the
direction of the war. The responsibility was
not theirs. They were just taking orders.
(to the defendant)
You said "no response." You mean, they did not
do what you asked them to do, is that it?
No response, your honor. We were standing
there. We were speaking on behalf of the
suffering. We were speaking as Americans. We
were proud to be Americans. Yet we have
representatives in Vietnam who do terrible
things in our name. We were saying to the
military: This is wrong. This is immoral.
This is illegal. And their response to this
was, they were only obeying orders.
(to the defendant)
But they did respond to you, did they not?
It was an atrocious response.
You are an artist, are you not?
(to the defense)
We are not trying his ability as an artist.
Would you indicate, Mr. Lewis, where your work
has been exhibited? And what prizes you have
(to the defense)
This has nothing to do with the issue. We are
not trying his ability as an artist.
So be it. I then moved into civil disobedience.
This is a legitimate form of social protest.
It is well documented in Christianity. Civil
disobedience was practiced by early Christians.
The spirit of the New Testament deals with a
man's response to other men and with a law that
overrides all laws. The one law is the primary
law of love and justice toward other men. As a
Christian, I am obligated to the primary law of
brotherhood. Men have responsibilities not only
to their immediate families but to the world.
Yes, you have said that.
So I made a decision to protest. This protest
involved the pouring of blood, a strong
indictment of those records. Blood, in Biblical
terms and in contemporary terms, is a symbol of
reconciliation -- related to the blood that is
being wasted in Vietnam, not only American
blood but the blood of Vietnamese. We acted --
Father Phil Berrigan, Dave Eberhart, Reverend
Mengel and myself -- in Baltimore in October of
1967. For that, I received a prison sentence
of six years in a Federal penitentiary.
After the conviction and while you were
awaiting sentence, you also engaged in the
Catonsville action, did you not?
Yes. It was the response of a man, a man
standing for humanity, a man, a Christian, a
human being, seeing what was happening, not
only in Vietnam, but beyond Vietnam. There was
a difference in my mind between the two
protests. The draft records on which we poured
blood were records of the inner city, the ghetto
areas. Part of the protest was to dramatize
that the war is taking more cannon fodder from
the poor areas than from the more affluent
areas. The symbolism was perhaps clearer in the
second case. We used a contemporary symbol --
napalm -- to destroy records which are potential
death certificates. They stand for the death of
the men, they represent men who are put in the
situation where they have to kill. But beyond
this, napalm manufactured in the United States
is part of our foreign aid. We supply weaponry
to more than eighty countries. We have troops
in more than forty countries. These troops are
backed up with our weaponry. So I was speaking
not only of Vietnam. I was speaking of other
parts of the world. The fact is, the American
system can flourish only if we expand our
economy in these other countries. The fact is
we produce more goods than we are capable of
consuming. We must have new markets. We must
bring our industries, our way of life into
Vietnam and Latin America. We must protect our
interests there. But we asked at Catonsville:
Whose interests are these? Who represents the
interests of Latin America? Who represents
the interests of Vietnam? I was well aware
that, in civil disobedience, you take an action,
you stand, you are arrested, you attempt to
express your views, you are prepared to take
the consequences. The consequence to me was a
six year sentence for pouring blood. I was
aware too that if I became involved in
Catonsville, I would be summoned once more for
trial. This is the trial and a greater sentence
may follow. I was fully aware of this at the
time. It was a very thoughtful time. In a
sense, it was a choice between life and death.
It was a choice between saving one's soul and
losing it. I was saving my soul.
Did you consider that others like you might hold
a view about Vietnam that was contrary to yours?
Well, that has happened, as we all know. I
don't see any of these people in jail. I don't
see any of these people suffering as we are
That was not my question. That was not my
I don't see any of these people in prison. What
do these people represent? Such people are
defending their economic interest. They are
defending their personal interests. They are
gaining because of the war. The whole weaponry
industry is enormous because of the war. The
Sentinel Missile System would not be possible if
it were not for this war. Who are gaining from
the war? They are an elite minority who are
very wealthy. But what is happening to the
poor in this country? I am not trying to
belabor the point.
I think the question could be answered yes or
no, could it not? Yes or no, were you aware
that it was against the law to take records
from the Selective Service and burn them?
I wasn't concerned with the law. I wasn't even
thinking about the law. I was thinking of what
those records meant. I wasn't concerned with
the law. I was concerned with the lives of
innocent people. I went in there with the intent
of stopping what the files justify. The young
men whose files we destroyed have not yet been
drafted, may not be drafted, may not be sent to
Vietnam for cannon fodder. My intent in going
there was to save lives. A person may break the
law to save lives.
If these men were not sent, other people would
have been sent, who would not otherwise have been
sent, would they not?
But why, your honor? Why this? Why does it
have to be like this? You are accepting the
fact that if these men are not sent, other men
will be sent. You are not even asking what can
be done to stop this insane killing, what can be
done to stop the genocide, what can be done to
stop the conditions in Latin America. You are
not dealing with these things. You are
accepting this as in Nazi Germany people
accepted the massacre of other people. This is
insane. I protest this.
Your honor, I move that all this be stricken.
I don't know how long he is going to continue.
How long? I have six years, Mr. Prosecutor. I
have lots of time.
INT. COURTROOM - DEFENDANTS #4 & #5
We CUT BACK AND FORTH between the testimony of THOMAS and MARJORIE MELVILLE,
a married couple.
I am Thomas Melville, priest. In August of
1957, I went to Guatemala. My work there was
the work of any Christian minister, trying to
teach the people the truths of the Christian
faith. I was not there very long when I felt I
was getting a little ahead of myself. The
material circumstances of the people -- I
hesitate to use the word poverty. They were
living in utter misery. So I thought, instead
of talking about the life to come and justice
beyond, perhaps I could do a little to
ameliorate the their conditions on this earth
and at the same time could give a demonstration
of what Christianity is all about. So we
decided we would join the revolutionary
movement, knowing that perhaps some of us would
be killed: myself, Marjorie my wife who was a
nun at the time, John Hogan, and five others,
joined in this agreement. We were all finally
expelled by the American ambassador who was
recently assassinated. I know you are bored by
Nobody is bored by this. It is an extremely
interesting story. But we cannot try the last
ten years in Guatemala.
I am Marjorie Melville, wife of Thomas Melville.
We first met in Guatemala. We were trying to
find out our role as Christians. Was it to see
to people's needs and get involved or were we
to say, Well, this is too difficult. It is too
hard to know what to do. Do we stand back or do
we go in on the side of the people and say, What
can I do to help? We were in anguish trying to
figure out what to do with people who needed our
I put up the title of the church property so we
could get a loan -- without the permission of
the Bishops. I got into trouble for it. I
signed the loan myself. There was simply no
organization in the country that would help the
We are not trying the state of Guatemala. We
are not trying the Church in Guatemala.
I had been living a very sheltered life in
Guatemala City. I never went out. I dealt
only with the parents of school children. Then
I took a course in Christian social doctrine.
I went into the slum areas. I began to
understand and to show the students what life
in Guatemala City was about. Through working
with the students, I began to realize my
country's involvement in Guatemala. Every time
we asked for help for very simple projects like
putting water in a village or setting up a
cooperative, we found that funds were not
available. Money was always available but only
in areas where the peasants were in active
despair. Money was available so they would
Under one government, land that belonged to the
United Fruit Comapny was distributed to
peasants. But a later President, Castillo
Armas, took the land from the peasants and gave
it back to the United Fruit Company. There
were about three thousand people who did not
want to move off the land. They were killed or
moved forcibly off the land.
We are not trying the United Fruit Company.
I went to the President, Ygidores Fuentes, to
ask for land for the people. He had eighty
national plantations. He was giving them to
his political cronies. He was very courteous
but he said there was no land for these
peasants. They did not have capital. They did
not have know-how to work the land.
We are not trying the government of Guatemala,
nor the Catholic church in Guatemala.
The group of students I was working with chose
a name which in English means "Crater" because
they felt that our spirit should be like a
volcano which erupts forth love for men. Our
superiors got a little nervous about our desire
to work with the peasants and they thought it
would be better if we left the country before
the thing got too big. We were asked to leave
Guatemala in December of 1967. We went to
Mexico trying to help the peasants and student
leaders who had also been expelled. There lives
were in danger. Being associated with us put
them in danger. In fact, I found out that their
names were on the Secret Police lists and they
would have been murdered as four thousand people
had been murdered in the last two years. It is
impossible to describe that.
Well, we are listening.
Eighty-five percent of the people of Guatemala
live in misery. Perhaps that is why you don't
worry about it. They live in misery because
two percent of the population are determined to
keep them that way. These two percent are
aligned with business interests in Guatemala,
especially with the United Fruit Company. The
United States government identifies its
interests in Guatemala with the interests of
American big business and with the Guatemalan
two percent who control the country. So if any
peasant movement does not conduct itself
according to their wishes, that is to say, if
such a movement is not completely ineffective,
they start yelling "They are communists!" and
begin executing these people.
You mean to say that the United States
government is executing Guatemalans?
Yes, your honor.
Has the United States government sent troops
Yes, your honor.
At the end of 1966 and in January of 1967.
And you say that the United States executed
Yes. It was reported even in Time magazine.
Well, we are not trying the series of
No, the court is quite busy trying us.
We wanted to participate in the revolutionary
movement. We knew it would not look good if an
American priest or nun were killed in Guatemala
by American Green Berets. We wanted to
complicate things for the United States in
Guatemala because we did not want to see a
slaughter there like the one in Vietnam. There
are all kinds of communists in Guatemala, beyond
doubt. I was accused of being a communist.
Good people who want a piece of land are
accused of being communists. Thousands of them
have been killed in the last few years and I
wanted to stop that.
I did not want to bring hurt upon myself but
there comes a moment when you decide that some
things should not be. Then you have to act to
try to stop those things. On my return, I was
very happy when I found other people in this
country concerned as I was. I know that
burning draft files is not an effective way to
stop a war but who has found a way of stopping
this war? I have racked my brain. I have
talked to all kinds of people. What can you
do? They say "Yes, yes..." but there is no
answer. No stopping it. The horror continues.
We wish to say lastly why we went to
Catonsville. Americans know that their nation
was born in blood. We have expanded our
frontiers and pacified the Indians in blood.
The creature of our history is our fatherland
today. The history we create today will form
the minds and hearts of our children tomorrow.
I hear our President confuse greatness with
strength, riches with goodness, fear with
respect, hopelessness and passivity with peace.
The cliches of our leaders pay tribute to
property and indifference to suffering. We
long for a hand of friendship and succor and
that hand clenches into a fist. I wonder how
long we can endure.
We wash our hands in the dirt of others,
pointing to the invasions or the atrocities of
others, certain that our own invasions and
atrocities are more excusable because more
subtle, though indeed far more devastating.
We ask this court and this nation today: Will
you acknowledge our right to work for change?
We do not ask for mercy. We do not ask that
history judge us right. That is a consolation
for more visionary souls than ours.
We ask only that Americans consider seriously
the points we have tried to raise.
If they do this, we have been successful. Our
act has been worth the expense, the suffering.
INT. COURTROOM - DEFENDANT #6
A woman, MARY MOYLAN, testifies.
I went to Uganda in 1959. I worked as a
nurse-midwife. I also went on safaris. I
trained students in nursing. I taught English
to secondary school girls. While I was in
Africa, I took courses in African history and
anthropology. I was working toward Fort Portal
up near the Mountains of the Moon. In the
summer of 1965, American planes piloted by
Cubans bombed Uganda, supposedly by accident.
This made me very interested in our foreign
policy and exactly what was going on. Finally,
a serious conflict developed between myself and
the Administrator of Hospitals. I said that I
loved Fort Portal very much but there were
several things I must object to. I felt that
the Africans should have more responsibility.
Much of our role seemed to be to provide a
white face in a black community. I also felt
that the students should have broader training
than they were getting. There was a large
government hospital right down the road. It
could use our help. The administrator broke my
contract and asked me to leave. I stayed in
Uganda for two months so that I could tell the
people why I was leaving. When I returned
home, I became director of the Women Volunteers
Association in Washington, D.C. Through my
involvement in Washington it became obvious to
me that we had no right to speak to foreign
countries about their policies when things at
home were in very sad shape. I was aware of
the militant Black community in Washington. It
became obvious that "law and order" is a
farcical term. In instances which I know of,
the law was broken by the government. In fact,
justice for a Black person is just about
impossible. It became obvious to me that our
politicians are right: Our foreign policy is
indeed a reflection of our domestic policy. In
Washington, a Black youth was shot by a white
policeman. A verdict of justifiable homicide
was handed down. I remember, too, a protest
staged by a young leader who had a juvenile
record. A southern congressman then read into
the Congressional Record this man's juvenile
record. This is absolutely forbidden by law.
It was pointed out to the congressman that his
procedure was illegal. His answer was: "I did
it once and I will do it again." I think when
you see the imperatives placed on you by such
events at home, by the lives lost in Vietnam,
lost in Latin America and in Africa, then it is
time to stand up. This is what it means to be
a Christian, that you act on what you say you
believe. This is what Christ meant when He
lived. We have not only to talk but, if we see
something wrong, we have to be willing to do
something about it. This is my belief. As a
nurse, my profession is to preserve life, to
prevent disease. To a nurse, the effect of
napalm on human beings is apparent. I think of
children and women bombed by napalm, burned
alive by a substance that does not roll off. It
is a jelly. It adheres. It continues burning.
This is inhuman, absolutely. To pour napalm on
pieces of paper is certainly preferable to
using napalm on human beings. By pouring napalm
on draft files I wish to celebrate life, not to
engage in a dance of death.
INT. COURTROOM - DEFENDANT #7
A moustached man, GEORGE MISCHE, testifies.
Mr. Mische, you worked in Latin America for
Yes. I worked in Central America and in the
Caribbean. I organized labor groups, housing
programs, land programs. We would work up
through the grass roots. I would submit our
proposals to Washington for approval. I went
to Latin America with the idea that the Latins
would be there waiting at the boat to greet me
because I was an American. That is the naivete
we have, I guess, until we arrive overseas.
Then I realized how wrong I was. We were not
only not welcome, now and then we had bricks
thrown at us. This confused me but after I
became involved at a higher level, I started to
understand why bricks were thrown at us. I was
working in two countries where revolutions had
taken place. I should not say "revolution," I
should say "coup d'etat" military overthrow of
governments. Two democratically elected
governments were overthrown by the military
with Pentagon support. At that point, I felt I
could not in conscience go on with this work
because John Kennedy had said we would not deal
with military dictatorships. At the overthrow
of democracy, we would stop all military
support and all economic support. We would
withdraw our people to force the leaders to
return to democracy. Well, when I saw the
opposite occur, I resigned. This reversal of
things had most impact on me in the Dominican
Republic. That was such a tragedy as to be
unbelievable. A man like Trujillo ran that
country for thirty-two years. When someone
dared talk about social change or social reform,
they would go into his house, take the head of
the family out of the house, cut off his penis,
put it in his mouth, cut off his arms and legs,
drop them in the doorway...
I have to object. I am trying to be patient.
I would suggest that we get to the issues.
I am trying to speak as a human being to the
jury who I hope are human beings and can
understand us. Will the jury dare to deal with
the spirit of the law and the issues we are
talking about? If not, we can expect no peace,
no solutions -- only disorder and riots, in our
country and in the world.
Mr. Mische, after you left the Alliance for
Progress, what did you do?
I came back to the United States and went
around this country. I talked to university
students. I talked to religious groups. I
talked at businessmen's clubs. I spoke to
eighty Catholic Bishops. As a Catholic, I
apologize to you for their cowardice. I asked
them, since they have eighty billion dollars
worth of property and ten times as much in
investments, if they were really to live in the
spirit of the stable in which Christ was born,
then why not get rid of the buildings and give
them to the poor?
Your honor, may I object again?
We are not trying the bishops of the United
It seemed to me that the war in Vietnam was
illegal because only Congress can declare a
war. The President cannot legally take us into
a war. We should never have let him. He
should be on trial here today. In the peace
movement, one of the most powerful things I
knew of was Philip Berrigan's first trial for
the blood pouring. A six year sentence for
pouring blood on files. Men walk our streets
pouring blood continuously and they walk free.
I also had a feeling, a strong feeling, about
what happened in Germany during the last war.
My father was from Germany. The United States
in 1945 supported the Nuremberg trials. I
thought that was the finest precedent this
country ever set. I said, Good. You are right.
All of us Christians share the responsibility
for having put those Jews in the ovens. If
this was true, then it is also true that this
is expected of me now as a Christian. Because
the Vietnamese people are crying out. Stop the
bombing. Stop the napalming. Stop the death,
day in and day out. But now we want to forget
the precedent we set in 1945. There is a
tendency to say: That was another country,
another time. It is said in times of crisis.
We cannot make black and white decisions.
Everything is gray. That is the problem. It
is easy for us on Monday morning to tell how we
should have played Sunday's game. We say that
it is too complicated. It is too obscure. So
nothing happens. The violence continues. I
felt that the crisis this country is in needed
something drastic, something people could see.
But the act had to be nonviolent. We were not
out to destroy life. There is a higher law we
are commanded to obey. It takes precedence
over human laws. My intent was to follow the
higher law. My intent was to save lives,
Vietnamese lives, North and South American
lives. To stop the madness. That was the
Is it your position that those who take a
contrary view to yours are insane?
No, sir, you did not hear. I was trying to say
that the style of one's action must coincide
with the style of his life. And that is all.
INT. COURTROOM - DEFENDANT #8
A man named JOHN HOGAN testifies.
I have something of a comparison, an analogy.
If there were a group of children walking along
the street returning home from school and a car
came down the street out of control, even
though there was a driver in that car, if I
could divert the car from crashing into those
children, I would feel an obligation to turn
the car from its path. Of course, the car is
property and would be damaged. It is even
possible something would happen to the
individual in the car. But no matter. I would
be thinking ten times more of those children
than of the driver of that car. And I know,
too, if I were driving that car and it were out
of control, I would hope and pray to God that
somebody would smash the car so that I might
not destroy those children.
If there were, Mr. Hogan, one phrase in which
you could sum up your intent in going to
Catonsville, how would you express it?
I just want to let people live. That is all.
I did not hear it.
I said, I want to let people live. That is all.
INT. COURTROOM - DEFENDANT #9
FATHER DANIEL BERRIGAN takes the stand.
What was the impact of the act of your brother
Philip Berrigan when he poured blood on draft
files in Baltimore?
I began to understand one could not
indefinitely obey the law while social
conditions deteriorated, structures of
compassion breaking down, neighborhoods slowly
rotting, the poor despairing, unrest forever
present in the land, especially among the young
people who are our only hope, our only resource.
My brother's action helped me realize from the
beginning of our republic, good men had said no
-- acted outside the law when conditions so
demanded. And if a man did this, time might
vindicate him, show his act to be lawful, a
gift to society, a gift to history, and to the
community. A few men must have a long view,
must leave history to itself, to interpret
their lives, their repute. Someday, these
defendants may be summoned to the Rose Garden
and decorated, but not today.
Could you state to the court what your intent
was in burning the draft files?
I did not want the children or the
grandchildren of the jury or of the judge to be
burned with napalm.
You say that your intention was to save these
children, of the jury, of myself, when you
burned the records? That is what I heard you
say. I ask if you meant that.
I meant that. Of course, I mean that. Or I
would not say it. The great sinfulness of
modern war is that it renders concrete things
abstract. I do not want to talk about
Americans in general.
You cannot think up arguments now that you would
like to have had in your mind then.
My intention on that day was to save the
innocent from death by fire. I was trying to
save the poor who are mainly charged with dying
in this war. I poured napalm on behalf of the
prosecutor's and the jury's children. It
seems to me quite logical. If my way of putting
the facts is inadmissible, then so be it. But I
was trying to be concrete about death because
death is a concrete fact as I have throughout my
life tried to be concrete about the existence of
God -- Who is not an abstraction but is someone
before me for Whom I am responsible.
Was your action at Catonsville a way of
carrying out your religious beliefs?
Of course it was. May I say, if my religious
belief is not accepted as a substantial part of
my action, then the action is eviscerated of all
meaning and I should be committed for insanity.
How did your views on the Vietnam war take shape?
My views on war and peace arose in me slowly as
life itself pushed hard and fast. I should like
to speak of five or six stages in my development.
I was invited to South Africa around Easter of
1964. There, I had a bout two weeks of intense
exposure to a segregationist police state. At
one meeting in Durbin, I remember the question
being raised: What happens to our children if
things go so badly that we have to go to jail?
I remember saying I could not answer that
question not being a citizen of that country but
I could perhaps help by reversing the question:
What happens to us and our children if we do not
go to jail?
I visited eastern Europe twice in 1964, meeting
with Christians in Czechoslovakia, Hungary,
Russia. This had bearing on my development. I
was coming to realize what it might cost to be a
Christian, what it might cost even at home if
things were to change in the direction I felt
events were taking even then. In the summer of
1965, I went to Prague to attend the Christian
Peace Conference. This was a kind of
breakthrough. For the first time, a Catholic
priest sat in that vast assembly of Christians
from all over the world -- from Marxist
countries, from India, from Africa, from the
east and west -- talking about things that
diplomacy and power and the military were not
talking about. That is to say: How can we
survive as human beings in a world more and
more officially given over to violence and
death. I think the imperceptible movement of
my conscience was pushed forward by that
I returned in the summer of 1964 and was
assigned as editor and writer at a magazine in
New York named "Jesuit Missions." I was quite
convinced that the war in Vietnam would
inevitably worsen. I felt that a cloud no
larger than a man's hand would shortly cover
the sky. In the autumn of 1964, I began to say
no to the war, knowing if I delayed too long, I
would never find the courage to say no. In
that year, I underwent a kind of boot camp in
the "new man" -- becoming a peaceable man in a
time of great turmoil. New York was not an
auspicious place to be a peaceable Catholic
priest. Cardinal Spellman was living. He had
always supported American wars. He believed --
I think this states his thought -- that the
highest of expression of Christian faith was to
bless our military. By his Christmas visits to
our foreign legions he placed official approval
on our military adventuring. I had to say no to
that, too. I had to say no to the church.
Finally, in the autumn of 1965, I was exiled
from the United States to Latin America...
What do you mean, "exiled"?
I was sent out, your honor, with no return
ticket. As one of my friends expressed it,
sending me to Latin America was a little like
tossing Br'er Rabbit into the briar patch. I
visited ten countries in four and a half months
from Mexico to southern Chile and then up the
western coasts. I discussed American
involvement in the political and social scene
of those countries. I spent time with the
students, the slum dwellers, with whatever
government officials would talk as well as with
church leaders. In Mexico, a student said to
me: We hate you North Americans with all our
hearts but we know that if you do not make it,
we all come down, we are all doomed. I arrived
in Rio in January 1966 in the midst of
devastating floods. In the space of a single
night, the rains came down with torrential
force, whole towns collapsed, people and shacks
fell into a stew of death. I remember the next
morning slogging through the mud in the company
of a slum dweller who was also a community
organizer. He looked at me and said: My
friend, millions for war in Vietnam and this
What? Are you saying that the United States
government caused the flood?
I think the fact was a bit more subtle than
that. I think he was saying the resources of
America which belong, in justice, to the poor
of the world, are squandered in war and war
Now, may I ask about your writings and
What difference does it make how many books he
I show you the book "Night Flight to Hanoi."
Will you outline the circumstances out of which
this book was written?
The book marks the next stage of my development.
In January of 1968, an invitation came from the
government of North Vietnam. Professor Howard
Zinn and myself were invited to Hanoi to bring
home three captive American airmen. For me to
go to Hanoi was a very serious decision. I
believe -- I have always believed -- that the
peace movement must not merely say no to the
war. It must also say yes to life, yes to a
possibility of a human future. We must go
beyond frontiers, frontiers declared by our
country or by the enemy. So I thought it would
be important to show Americans that we were
ready to risk our lives to bring back American
prisoners because we did not believe that in
wartime anyone should be in prison or should
suffer separation from families -- simply, we
did not believe in war. And so we went. In
Hanoi, I think we were the first Americans to
undergo an American bombing attack. When the
burned draft files were brought into court
yesterday as evidence, I could not but recall
that I had seen in Hanoi evidence of a very
different nature. I saw not boxes of burned
papers, I saw parts of human bodies, preserved
in alcohol, the bodies of children, the hearts
and organs and limbs of women, teachers,
workers, peasants, bombed in fields and
churches and schools and hospitals. I examined
our "improved weaponry." It was quite clear to
me during three years of air war, America had
been experimenting upon the bodies of the
innocent. We had improved our weapons on their
He did not see this first hand. He is telling
of things he was told in Hanoi, about some
things that were preserved in alcohol.
French, English, Swedish experts -- doctors --
testified these were actually the bodies whose
pictures accompanied the exhibits. The
evidence was unassailable. The bombings were a
massive crime against man. The meaning of the
air war in the North was the deliberate,
systematic destruction of a poor and developing
We are not trying the air war in North Vietnam.
I must protest the effort to discredit me on the
stand. I am speaking of what I saw. There is a
consistent effort to say that I did not see it.
The best evidence of what some "crime
commission" found is not a summary that you give.
So be it. In any case, we brought the flyers
home. I think as a result of the trip to Hanoi
I understood the limits of what I had done
before and the next step that must come. On my
return to America, another event helped me to
understand the way I must go. It was the
self-immolation of a high school student in
Syracuse, New York in the spring of 1968. This
boy had come to a point of despair about the
war. He had gone into the Catholic cathedral,
drenched himself with kerosene, and immolated
himself in the street. He was still living a
month later. I was able to gain access to him.
I smelled the odor of burning flesh. And I
understood anew what I had seen in North
Vietnam. The boy was dying in torment, his
body like a piece of meat cast upon a grill. He
died shortly thereafter. I felt that my senses
had been invaded in a new way. I had
understood the power of death in the modern
world. I knew I must speak and act against
death because this boy's death was being
multiplied a thousandfold in the Land of
Burning Children. So I went to Catonsville and
burned some papers because the burning of
children is inhuman and unbearable. I went to
Catonsville because I had gone to Hanoi,
because my brother was a man, and I must be a
man, and because I knew at length I could not
announce the gospel from a pedestal. I must
act as a Christian sharing the risks and
burdens and anguish of those whose lives were
placed in the breach by us. I saw suddenly
and it struck with the force of lightning that
my position was false. I was threatened with
verbalizing my moral substance out of existence.
I was placing upon young shoulders a filthy
burden, the original sin of war. I was asking
them to enter a ceremony of death. Although I
was too old to carry a draft card, there were
other ways of getting in trouble with a state
that seemed determined upon multiplying the
dead, totally intent upon a war, the meaning of
which no sane man could tell. So I went to
Hanoi and then to Catonsville and that is why
I am here.
Did you not write a meditation to accompany the
statement issued by the nine defendants at
Would you read the meditation?
"Some ten or twelve of us (the number is still
uncertain) will, if all goes well (ill?) take
our religious bodies during this week to a
draft center in or near Baltimore. There we
shall of purpose and forethought remove the
1-A files, sprinkle them in the public street
with home-made napalm, and set them afire. For
which act we shall beyond doubt be placed
behind bars for some portion of our natural
lives in consequence of our inability to live
and die content in the plagued city, to say
'peace, peace' when there is no peace, to keep
the poor poor, the thirsty and hungry thirsty
and hungry. Our apologies, dear friends, for
the fracture of good order, the burning of
paper instead of children, the angering of the
orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel
house. We could not, so help us God, do
otherwise. For we are sick at heart, our
hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land
of Burning Children and for thinking of that
other Child of whom the poet Luke speaks. The
infant was taken up in the arms of an old man
whose tongue grew resonant and vatic at the
touch of that beauty. And the old man spoke:
this child is set for the fall and rise of many
in Israel, a sign that is spoken against.
Small consolation, a child born to make trouble
and to die for it, the First Jew (not the last)
to be subject of a 'definitive solution.' And
so we stretch out our hands to our brothers
throughout the world. We who are priests to
our fellow priests. All of us who act against
the law turn to the poor of the world, to the
Vietnamese, to the victims, to the soldiers who
kill and die, for the wrong reasons, for no
reason at all, because they were so ordered by
the authorities of that public order which is,
in effect, a massive institutionalized disorder.
We say: killing is disorder -- life and
gentleness and community and unselfishness is
the only order we recognize. For the sake of
that order, we risk our liberty, our good name.
The time is past when good men may be silent,
when obedience can segregate men from public
risk, when the poor can die without defense.
How many indeed must die before our voices are
heard, how many must be tortured, dislocated,
starved, maddened? How long must the world's
resources be raped in the service of legalized
murder? When at what point will you say no to
this war? We have chosen to say, with the gift
of liberty, if necessary, our lives: The
violence stops here, the death stops here, the
suppression of the truth stops here, the war
stops here. Redeem the times! The times are
inexpressibly evil. Christians pay conscious,
indeed religious tribute, to Caesar and Mars,
by the approval of overkill tactics, by
brinkmanship, by nuclear liturgies, by racism,
by support of genocide. They embrace their
society with all their heart and abandon the
cross. They pay lip service to Christ and
military service to the powers of death. And
yet... and yet... the times are inexhaustibly
good, solaced by the courage and hope of many.
The truth rules. Christ is not forsaken. In a
time of death, some men -- the resisters, those
who work hardily for social change, those who
preach and embrace the truth -- such men
overcome death, their lives are bathed in the
light of the Resurrection, the truth has set
them free. In the jaws of death, they proclaim
their love of the brethren. We think of such
men in the world, in our nation, in the
churches, and the stone in our breast is
dissolved, we take heart once more."
White letters on a black screen read: SUMMATION
INT. COURTROOM - DAY 4
The defense and prosecution address the judge.
Your honor, the government's concession with
reference to the reasonableness of the views
held by these defendants, has, in the opinion
of the defense, made it unnecessary to call
expert witnesses. Since the government
concedes that reasonable men can hold that the
war is illegal, unconstitutional, and immoral,
the proffered witnesses no longer have any
relevance to this case.
Your honor, I want it understood for the record
that I don't accept his use of the word
"concession." If we accept the version of the
defense, they would have it believed that the
government feels that any person who thinks the
war in Vietnam is illegal would be insane. We
never took this position, so there is no
concession to make.
Your honor, I might indicate that the government
has never before publicly made the statement
that was made in this court... There is a great
difference between saying that "a man is insane
to hold these views," and saying, "a reasonable
man can hold these views."
The government is certainly not conceding that
those views are correct, and the court will have
to rule on those as a matter of law. And that
is the test case that you want.
I am making the record clear. The argument now
is not the correctness of the views, but whether
a reasonable man could hold them...
At any rate, the defense has its test case. Now
I ask: Is the government ready to begin the
The government is ready, your honor.
May it please the court and members of the jury.
It is now my responsibility to attempt, in
summary fashion, to review with you the
evidence that has been produced in this
courtroom. First of all, I want it clearly
understood that the government is not about to
put itself in the position -- has not
heretofore and is not now -- of conducting its
policies at the end of a string tied to the
consciences of these nine defendants. This
trial does not include the issues of the
Vietnam conflict. It does not include the
issue of whether the United States ought to be
in the conflict or out of it. The government
quite candidly admits that the position these
defendants took is reasonable -- as to the fact
that the war is illegal, that it is immoral,
that it is against religious principles, that
any reasonable man could take that view. We do
not even say that a person has to be insane to
have the views that they have. No, we don't
say that. But this prosecution is the
government's response, the law's response, the
people's response, to what the defendants did.
And what they did was to take government
property and throw flammable material upon it
and burn it beyond recognition. And that is
what this case is about. There are people who
rely upon the files in Local Board No. 33 in
(off the defendants)
Suppose you were to acquit these people on the
only basis possible, in view of everything they
have conceded? Acquit them, that is, although
they did those acts with the intention of
hindering the Selective Service System and of
burning the files and records. Suppose that
because of their sincerity, their conscience,
their religious convictions, they were entitled
to be acquitted in this courtroom? If these
people were entitled to be acquitted by virtue
of their sincerity and religion and conviction,
then according to the same logic, should no the
man who commits any other crime be also
entitled to acquittal? We also heard about
unpleasant things happening, or about to happen,
in other areas of the world. Among these nine
defendants, there are four or five
justifications floating around. One defendant
is upset about one ill in the world and that
justifies his going to Catonsville. Another is
upset about another ill in the world and that
justifies his going to Catonsville. And so on.
The possibilities are infinite. There could in
fact be fifty defendants, each upset about
fifty different supposed ills in the world. And
each one of them could say: this is why I
violated the law. Ladies and gentlemen of the
jury, the government has never contended that
this country is perfect, that it is without
flaw, without ills and problems and failings.
To assert that would be absurd. But I would
suggest to you that, to the extent that this
country has problems, those problems will be
solved. We will progress. We will get better.
The country will get better. But our problems
are not going to be solved by people who
deliberately violate our laws, the foundation
and support for an ordered and just and
civilized society. It is our sworn duty to
assert, by finding the defendants guilty, that
our problems will not be solved but will be
increased beyond imagining, by people who
deliberately violate the law under which we all
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this is an
historic moment for all of us -- for the judge,
the jury, the counsel, the defendants.
Undoubtedly, a great measure of personal
reflection is required even to begin to
appreciate the meaning of this trial for those
who participated in it. As for those who did
not, only the passage of time can tell whether
the events of this courtroom will strike
responsive chords both in our country and
around the world.
I must beg your leave to inject a personal
note. In law school, I was repeatedly warned
never to identify too closely with prospective
clients. Perhaps under other circumstances,
this might be considered sound advice. But as
your honor acknowledged during the trial, these
are not ordinary clients; and this is hardly a
run-of-the-mill prosecution. For myself, I
must confess with more heartfelt pride than I
could adequately describe, that in the course of
this litigation, I have come to love and respect
the men and women who stand before this court.
Like them, I make no plea for mercy. I dare
not tarnish the transcendent witness they have
given, in an attempt to persuade this court to
bend in their direction. Still, there are some
things I must say if I am to remain faithful to
my obligations as a lawyer, as an American, and
as a human being.
The court has agreed that this is a unique case.
It shares the historic meaning of other great
contests of law. The trial of Socrates was not
merely a question of a man sowing confusion and
distrust among the youth of Athens. the trial of
Jesus could not be reduced to one of conspiracy
against the empire. In a parallel way, there
are overriding issues at stake. I hope to
bring them to your attention, within the limits
the defense is allowed to touch on.
In the first place, we agree with the
prosecutor as to the essential facts of the
case. The participants did participate in the
burning of records. You must have understood,
because it was pointed out here, that the
Selective Service System is a branch of the
Federal government, for the procurement of
young men for military service, as decided by
the authorities of the United States. In other
words, such young men are to be used, as one
defendant said, for cannon fodder, if the
government so dictates. It is not a question
of records which are independent of life. We
are not talking about driving licenses or
licenses to operate a brewery. We are speaking
of one kind of records. No others so directly
affect life and death on a mass scale, as do
these. They affect every mother's son who is
registered with every Board. These records
stand quite literally for life and death to
The defendants did not go to Catonsville to act
as criminals, to frighten Mrs. Murphy, or to
annoy or hinder her. They were there to
complete a symbolic act, first of all, which we
claim is a free speech act. And secondly, they
were there to impede and interfere with the
operation of a system which they have
concluded -- and it is not an unreasonable
belief, as the government has told you -- is
immoral, illegal, and is destroying innocent
people around the world.
The defendants weren't burning files for the
sake of burning files. If they were, I would
not stand in this court to defend them. They
burned the files at Catonsville for two
reasons, both of which they admitted. They
wanted, in some small way, to throw a roadblock
into a system which they considered murderous,
which was grinding young men, many thousands of
them, to death in Vietnam. Also, they wanted,
as they said, to reach the American public, to
reach you. They were trying to make an outcry,
an anguished outcry, to reach the American
community before it was too late. It was a cry
that could conceivably have been made in Germany
in 1931 and 1932, if there were someone to
listen and to act on it. It was a cry of
despair and anguish and hope, all at the same
time. And to make this outcry they were
willing to risk years of their lives. The
government has conceded that the defendants
were sincere, it has conceded their truthfulness.
The government has also conceded that it is
reasonable to hold the views held by the
defendants as to the illegality of this war.
So we come to the only issue left for you to
decide: whether, in your opinion, they are
guilty or innocent of crime.
I want to point out to you, in some detail, a
case which offers parallels to this one, a case
which affected the character of American
history, some two hundred years ago. The
defendant was a printer, Peter Zenger, by name.
He was accused of seditious libel. Andrew
Hamilton, the defending lawyer, spoke the
following words during the course of the trial.
It seems to me that they are of point here.
"Jurors are to see with their own eyes, to hear
with their own ears, and to make use of their
conscience and understanding in judging of the
lives, liberties, and estates of their fellow
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that is what we
are asking you to do.
You are urging the jury to make their decision
on the basis of conscience. This morning, I
said to you that if you attempt to argue that
the jury has the power to decide this case on
the basis of conscience, the court will
interrupt to tell the jury their duty. The
jury may not decide this case on the basis of
the conscience of the defendants. They are to
decide this case only on the basis of the facts
presented by both sides.
I would like to say to the jury: I am appealing
to you, as Andrew Hamilton appealed to a jury,
to consider all the facts of the case before
you. All the words, writing, marching, fasting,
demonstrating -- all the peaceable acts of the
defendants over a period of some years -- had
failed to change a single American decision in
Vietnam. All their protests had failed to
prevent a single innocent death, failed to end
the anguish of napalm on human flesh, failed
even momentarily to slow the unnatural,
senseless destruction of men, women, and
children, including the destruction of our own
sons -- a destruction wrought in a policy that
passes all human understanding. Perhaps in the
last analysis, this cataclysm of our times can
be understood only in the lives of a few men
who, for one moment, stand naked before the
horrified gaze of their fellow men. Anne Frank
did this for six million Jews. And it may be
that the thousands of American and Vietnamese
ghosts created by this war can best be spoken
for by three small children who crouched in a
Hanoi air raid shelter, before the
compassionate eyes of an American priest. He
saw in these children, as many of us saw in Anne
Frank, the waifs spawned by an incomprehensible
and savage war, a war that envelops and affects
each of us, and makes us partners in the common
tragedy which brings me before you. Perhaps in
this poem by Daniel Berrigan, who stands in
judgment before you, some understanding of the
truth of things can come through.
Imagine; three of them.
As though survival
were a rat's word
and a rat's end
waited there at the end
and I must have
in the century's boneyard
heft of flesh and bone in my arms
I picked up the littlest
a boy, his face
breaded with rice (his sister calmly feeding him
as we climbed down)
In my arms fathered
in a moment's grace, the messiah
of all my tears. I bore, reborn
a Hiroshima child from hell.
The jury may now begin their deliberations.
White letters on a black screen read: THE VERDICT
INT. COURTROOM - DAY 5
The jury box is empty.
Now then, let the defendants or their counsels
be heard from. Have I said something I should
not have said, or left unsaid something I should
Your honor, the defendants have requested to be
permitted to say something to the court.
I want to hear the defendants. I do not want to
cut them off from anything they may want to say.
Mr. Melville, will you begin?
Your honor, we feel that the overriding issue
in the case has been obscured by the treatment
given us. If our intention was to destroy
government records, we could very easily have
gone in at nighttime and taken the files out
and burned them. As it was, we went in the
middle of the day, and, after burning the files,
waited around for fifteen minutes until the
police came, to give public witness to what we
did. Our intention was to speak to our country,
to the conscience of our people. Now, during
these few days we have been in this court in an
attempt to speak to the conscience of the
American people. We feel that the twelve
jurors have heard all kinds of legal arguments,
which I suppose they must hear. But we feel
that the overriding issue has been obscured.
You have sent the jury out to judge whether we
committed the acts which we admitted from the
beginning that we had committed.
The jury are not the representatives of the
American people. Also, nobody has cut you down
on the evidence you wanted to present. You
have made your case in public. It is quite true
that I have not submitted to the jury the
question you would like to have submitted, in a
way you would like. I have told the jury if
they find that you intended to burn the records
and hinder the draft board, then it was
immaterial that you had other good purposes.
And it was immaterial how sincere you were and
how right you may ultimately be judged by
history. I am not questioning the morality of
what you did. I disagree with the theory of
law which you are presenting and which was
argued very eloquently by your counsel, as far
as I would permit him to do it. I cannot allow
someone to argue something which is entirely
contrary to the law. That would be to ask the
jury to disregard their oath. I cannot allow
that. If you had gone to Catonsville and taken
one file under some token arrangement, you
might have had something to argue. But you
went out and burned three hundred and
seventy-eight files, according to your own
admission. And every one of you, I think, said
that you did it in order to hinder the
operation of the draft. I am not questioning
the highness of your motive. I think that one
must admire a person who is willing to suffer
for his beliefs. But people who are going to
violate the law in order to make a point must
expect to be convicted.
Your honor, we are not arguing from a purely
legal standpoint. We are arguing to you as an
American with your obligations to society, to
those jurors as Americans and in their
obligations to our society. If it is only a
question of whether we committed this act or
not, we feel it would be better if the jury is
dismissed. We can save ourselves a lot of time
and money by receiving an immediate sentence
Mr. Mische next.
My question, your honor, concerns conscience.
Did you tell the jury they could not act
according to their conscience?
I did not mention conscience. I did not talk
about conscience. I do not mind saying that
this is the first time the question of
conscience has been raised in this court.
But was the jury told they could not use their
conscience in determining--
I certainly did not tell them they could
disregard their oath and let you off on sympathy
or because they thought you were sincere people.
Your honor, we are having great difficulty in
trying to adjust to the atmosphere of a court
from which the world is excluded, and the
events that brought us here are excluded
deliberately, by the charge to the jury.
They were not excluded. The question--
May I continue? Our moral passion was excluded.
It is as though we were subjects of an autopsy,
were being dismembered by people who wondered
whether or not we had a soul. We are sure that
we have a soul. It is our soul that brought us
here. It is our soul that got us in trouble.
It is our conception of man. But our moral
passion is banished from this court. It is as
though the legal process were an autopsy.
Well, I cannot match your poetic language.
The audience breaks into APPLAUSE.
Any further demonstration and the court will be
cleared. And I mean that. The whole crowd.
(to Daniel Berrigan)
Father Berrigan, you made your points on the
stand, very persuasively. I admire you as a
poet. But I think you simply do not understand
the function of a court.
I am sure that is true.
You admitted that you went to Catonsville with
a purpose which requires your conviction. You
wrote your purpose down in advance. Your
counsel stood and boasted of it. Now I happen
to have a job in which I am bound by an oath of
office. If you had done this thing in many
countries of the world, you would not be
standing here. You would have been in your
coffins long ago. Now, nobody is going to draw
and quarter you. You may be convicted by the
jury and if you are, I certainly propose to
give you every opportunity to say what you want.
Your honor, you spoke very movingly of your
understanding of what it is to be a judge. I
wish to ask whether or not reverence for the
law does not also require a judge to interpret
and adjust the law to the needs of the people
here and now. I believe that no tradition can
remain a mere dead inheritance. It is a living
inheritance which must continue to offer to the
living. So, it may be possible, even though
the law excludes certain important questions of
conscience, to include them nonetheless and,
thereby, to bring the tradition to life again
for the sake of the people.
Well, I think there are two answers to that.
You speak to me as a man and as a judge. As a
man, I would be a very funny sort if I were not
moved by your sincerity on the stand, and by
your views. I agree with you completely, as a
person. We can never accomplish what we would
like to accomplish, or give a better life to
people, if we are going to keep on spending so
much money for war. But a variety of
circumstances makes it most difficult to have
your point of view presented. It is very
unfortunate but the issue of the war cannot be
presented as sharply as you would like. The
basic principle of our law is that we do things
in an orderly fashion. People cannot take the
law into their own hands.
You are including our President in that
Of course, the President must obey the law.
He hasn't though.
If the President has not obeyed the law, there
is very little that can be done.
And that is what this trial is all about...
Your honor, you have referred to the war
question as one which may be either political
or legal. Supposed it were considered as a
question of life and death. Could that be
appropriately raised here?
Well, again, that is poetic speech. I am not
sure what the legal proposition is. I
understand why it seems a matter of life and
death to you. Of course, the war is a matter
of life and death to all boys who are in it.
It is a matter of life and death to the people
Your honor, I think you said previously that
you had a great deal of respect for the law and
the Constitution of the United States. I would
like to call this respect into question if you
are unwilling to do anything about a war which
is in violation of our legal tradition and the
United States Constitution.
Well, I understand your point. But I cannot
appoint you either my legal or spiritual
We have people from the peace movement here.
Will you, then, allow them to file in your
court, calling into question the entire Vietnam
war? And will you be willing to review the
charge in its entirety? Whatever decision you
make then can be submitted to the Supreme Court.
But you have to have a case...
You have to break a law first.
... that can be brought in court.
You have to break a law. It seems that, before
we can get a judge to face the situation, you
have to break a law, as Dr. King found.
If you had gotten legal advice, I am sure you
would have been advised that there are better
ways to raise this question than the way you
raised it at Catonsville.
Your honor, one question. I have been called
an honest and just man in this courtroom. I
appreciate that. But the reality is that I
leave this room in chains. I am taken back to
prison. How do you explain this?
Good character is not a defense for breaking the
law. That is the only way I can explain it.
Your honor, the instructions you gave to the
jury bound them to the narrow letter of the
law. And a verdict according to the spirit of
the law was strictly prohibited. It is my
feeling that the spirit of the law is
important, particularly in American legal
tradition and in American life. It is the
spirit which counts.
I am not God almighty. I did what the law
required me to do. All we can do is our best...
Your honor, I think that we would be less than
honest with you if we did not state our
attitude. Simply, we have lost confidence in
the institutions of this country, including our
own churches. I think this has been a rational
process on our part. We have come to our
conclusion slowly and painfully. We have lost
confidence, because we do not believe any
longer that these institutions are reformable.
Well, if you are saying that you are advocating
I am saying merely this: We see no evidence
that the institutions of this country,
including our own churches, are able to provide
the type of change that justice calls for, not
only in this country, but around the world. We
believe that this has occurred because law is
no longer serving the needs of the people;
which is a pretty good definition of morality.
I can understand how you feel. I think the
only difference between us is that I believe the
institutions can do what you believe they cannot
Our question remains: How much time is left
this country, as our casualties inch upward, as
Vietnamese casualties mount every day? And
nuclear war is staring us in the face? That is
the question we are concerned about -- man's
I assure you I am concerned about your
question, for my grandchildren, as well as for
everybody else. It is a serious thing.
Change could come if one judge would rule on
the war. If one judge would act, the war could
not continue as it does.
I think you misunderstand the organization of
the United States. One judge ruling on it would
not end the war. Each judge must do his best
with what comes before him.
We want to thank you, your honor. I speak for
the others. But we do not want the edge taken
off what we have tried to say, by any
implication that we are seeking mercy from this
court. We welcome the rigors of this court.
Our intention in appearing here after
Catonsville was to be useful to the poor of the
world, to the Black people of the world and our
country, and to those in our prisons who have
no voice. We do not wish that primary blade of
intention to be honed down to no edge at all by
a gentleman's agreement, whereby you agree with
us and we with you. We do not agree with you,
and we thank you.
Could we finish with a prayer? Would that be
against your wishes? We would like to recite
the "Our Father" with our friends.
The Court has no objection whatsoever, and
rather welcomes the idea.
The defendants, the defense, and others in the courtroom rise and begin to
join in the prayer.
Some time later. The judge reads a note to himself.
I have just received a note from the foreman.
The jury has concluded its deliberations and is
ready to report its findings. The jury will
come in now and the clerk will take the verdict.
There must be no demonstrations from the
audience. If there are, I may clear the room.
Or I may instruct the marshal to take
appropriate action with respect to any
Minutes later. The jury is seated. All look on with interest.
The taking of the verdict in Criminal Action
No. 28111, the United States of America against
Philip Berrigan, Daniel Berrigan, Thomas Lewis,
James Darst, John Hogan, Marjorie Melville,
Thomas Melville, George Mische, and Mary Moylan.
(to the Jury)
Members of the jury, what say you? Is the
defendant John Hogan guilty of the matters
whereof he stands indicted?
We find John Hogan guilty.
Members of the jury, what say you? Is the
defendant Marjorie Melville guilty of the
matters whereof she stands indicted, or not
We find Marjorie Melville guilty.
Members of the jury, what say you? Is the
defendant Thomas Melville guilty of the
matters whereof he stands indicted, or not
We find Thomas Melville guilty.
Members of the jury, what say you? Is the
defendant George Mische guilty or not guilty
of the matters whereof he stands indicted?
We find George Mische guilty.
Members of the jury, what say you? Is the
defendant Mary Moylan guilty of the
matters whereof she stands indicted, or not
We find Mary Moylan guilty.
Members of the jury, what say you? Is the
defendant Philip Berrigan guilty of the
matters whereof he stands indicted, or not
We find Philip Berrigan guilty.
Members of the jury, what say you? Is the
defendant Daniel Berrigan guilty of the
matters whereof he stands indicted, or not
We find Daniel Berrigan guilty.
Members of the jury, what say you? Is the
defendant Thomas Lewis guilty of the
matters whereof he stands indicted, or not
We find Thomas Lewis guilty.
Members of the jury, what say you? Is the
defendant David Darst guilty of the
matters whereof he stands indicted, or not
We find David Darst guilty.
MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE
Members of the jury, you have just found Jesus
Much COMMOTION and similar outbursts from others in the audience.
Marshals, clear the courtroom.
Not long after. The audience has been cleared out.
Now, is there anything else that the government
or the defendants wish brought to the attention
of the court?
We would simply like to thank the court and the
prosecution. We agree that this is the greatest
day of our lives.