A Jefferson County Court jury today convicted 10 nuclear protesters of trespass for blocking trains bound for Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant, 16 miles from Denver.
The verdict, brought in after nearly nine hours of deliberation, also convicts 50 other protesters who had agreed to accept the jury's findings.
The jury acquitted the protesters of companion charges, obstructing a public passageway, after deciding that the railroad spur leading to the sprawling nuclear complex is essentially a private way.
Jurors interviewed after the verdicts were announced said they would have liked to have considered the "higher law" defendants said they were obeying, but that they weren't allowed that latitude.
"We are all in sympathy with you and your cause. There's no way we could be against what you are fighting for," juror Diana Holman told a defendant after the 11-day trial.
Juror Judith Herring burst into tears a moment after handing another defendant a note that read, "It's most unfair that, in order for attention to be brought to a harm as great as Rocky Flats presents, the law had to be broken . . . My support and prayers with you all."
The defendants' case had been fractured by Judge Kim Goldberger's ruling that they weren't entitled to build a defense on Colorado's "choice-of-evils" law, which excuses criminal acts committed to avert imminent danger.
While the dangers of Rocky Flats are "real and continuing," the choice-of-evils defense can't invoked to excuse calculated acts of civil disobedience, Goldberger ruled midway through the trial.
The defendants - including a nun, a Mennonite pastor, a former Presbyterian minister, a nurse and former defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg - have claimed that Rocky Flats poses an immediate health hazard to nearby residents and threatens U.S. and world security by increasing nuclear weapons stockpiles.
This was the first mass trial of protesters, who began blocking trains headed for Rocky Flats seven months ago.
Each protester faces sentencing for one to three trespass convictions, each punishable by up to six months' imprisonment.