The Catonsville Nine File
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The TrialThe StreetThe CourtroomThe Verdict
On Monday, October 5, the fifth floor courtroom was filled with over 200 spectators, many in clerical attire. The nine defendants entered the courtroom to a two-minute standing ovation. Chief Judge Roszel C. Thomsen presided. The defense team was headed by William M. Kunstler and the prosecution by Federal Prosecutor Steven M. Sachs.

The prosecution called only two witnesses, Mary Murphy and Phyllis Morsberger, both Selective Service employees working the day of the raid.

The defense called no witnesses, but the defendants were allowed to speak of their personal convictions and experiences.

  • The nine defendants freely admitted their role in burning draft files but not their guilt.
  • They testified that they had acted out of conscience and out of respect for a higher power.
  • They spoke of suffering they had seen in Africa, Asia, and South America and about the oppression of the poor in this country.
  • The draft records were destroyed, they said, because of their desire to end what they believed was an immoral war and because of their despair over the treatment of the poor both overseas and at home.

"I wanted to do a tiny bit to stop the machine of death I saw moving," said David Darst.

Daniel Berrigan read from his Catonsville meditation: "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."

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