We'll start with Woodham, as we read her column first. Kerre Woodham seems to have undergone a midlife metamorphisis, from bleeding-heart leftie to pragmatic conservative. But she's right on the mark today when she says:
Whether you sympathise with the men's beliefs, it's a very odd decision. Legal experts say it won't set a precedent because the decision was made by a jury, not a judge.
But you can bet your legal aid dollars that every lobby group in the land will be heartened and emboldened by this decision - anti-abortionists and the pig and chicken liberators, in particular.
And we concur entirely with her closing remarks:
But one thing is for certain. All the tosh coming from these men about their non-violent action achieving significant things and saving the lives of the women and children in Iraq is just that - tosh.
Ripping a plastic dome in the peaceful valley of Waihopai hasn't prevented one drop of blood from being spilled in Iraq.
But that's the problem with zealots. Logic and reason are superceded by fervour and righteousness.
That's not what we want to see in our courts.
Amen to that Sister Kerre! The last thing we need is for the nutters of this land (and goodness knows, we have our share!) to be emboldened by the decision of the District Court and to "try it on" in the hope of getting a similarly composed jury.
So on to Michael Laws. Whatever you think of the Mayor of W(h)anganui, he has a way with words, and that is evident this morning - he begins:
IT WAS the jury verdict that satisfied nobody. Not the defendants seeking martyrdom, nor the prosecution seeking a conviction.
Instead, 12 completely mad Wellingtonians staged their own protest and found three guilty "peace" activists not guilty. Lord knows why. A protest at the food, or the rate of pay? A sick St Patrick's Day joke?
Whatever the spite, it was a perverse finding. The facts were not in dispute. Three eccentrics premeditated their sabotage of a part of the western security alliance. They took boltcutters and a sickle. The hammer, it seems, they left at home.
One might describe Peter Murnane, Adrian Leason and Sam Land as misguided zealots, hippy idealists or, charitably, sincere nutters. Very possibly, all three. And you would be right. But also, you would not be wrong in describing them as terrorist familiars. Aiders, abetters and apologists for those nasty nutters dedicated to the overthrow of the West.
That this drama played out under a starry Blenheim sky makes it seem even more surreal. Because the reality is that New Zealand snuggles close to United States intelligence for a simple reason. If anything bad is coming our way, we'd like to know it.
And the Americans will be the first to know it. Basing a couple of spy satellite dishes in the middle of nowhere is not a high price to pay. Their imperative is to find terrorists and to frustrate their plan. It is the greater good.
Laws' piece is well worthy of a read in its entirety. But we love the subtlety of his argument in the last paragraph quoted above - "It is the greater good". Wasn't that the line that defence ran - that the defendants had an absolute conviction that they were acting in "the greater good"? That's a clever piece of word craftsmanship from Mayor Michael.
Laws' next few paragraphs confirm that line of thought:
Three radicals disagreed. They saw the dishes as encouraging the United States military to hunt down innocent civilians and drone bomb them. Hence the deliberate act of subterfuge and sabotage.
The weirdest part of the "greater good" defence that they used was that it did not matter if they were mistaken. It did not matter if their actions actively assisted al Quaeda and other terrorist organisations. According to their lawyers, they "believed" that they were doing right. By doing wrong. And assisting evil.
On no moral nor legal reference is such an excuse other than an extenuating circumstance. We judge the action and we apply the consequence. Motivation is a mitigation.
Except in Wellington. Where 12 complete morons can only have decided one of two things. First, that the radicals' cause was right. Or, second, that being delusional is always a defence. Which is why the 12 jurors need to be arraigned themselves.
We concur completely with both pieces. And all we can now hope for is that Judge Stephen Harrop left the door ajar, even in the slightest, in his summation to the jury. It is important, vitally important that Crown Law finds grounds to appeal this verdict. But that's just OUR opinion, of course!