NASHVILLE — The jury is set to deliberate on the fate of six pro-lifers who face 11 years in prison after being accused by the Department of Justice for a conspiracy against rights over a peaceful protest at a Tennessee abortion facility in March 2021.
On Monday, the fourth day of the trial, lawyers for the defendants and the Department of Justice delivered their closing arguments at the Fred D. Thompson federal courthouse in Nashville, Tennessee. The pro-lifers — Chet Gallagher, Coleman Boyd, Heather Idoni, Cal Zastrow, Paul Vaughn, and Dennis Green — are charged by the government of violating the FACE Act and conspiring against rights, a charge that could lead to 11 years in prison.
The charges stem from a protest that took place in a hallway outside of a Mount Juliet abortion provider on March 5, 2021. On that day, a group of demonstrators gathered on the second floor of an office building in the hallway outside the Carafem Health Center Clinic. The group prayed, sang hymns, and urged women showing up to the clinic to not get abortions.
During closing arguments, lawyers for the defendants noted the peaceful aspect of the event, which they referred to as a “rescue,” and said that the pro-lifers never conspired to oppress, threaten, or intimidate anyone at Carafem as the government alleges.
Jodie Bell, Gallagher’s lawyer, said the group was at Carafem to offer help “consistent with their religious beliefs” to women and that their aim was “rescuing the unborn.” Bell noted that the group was in the hallway leading up to Carafem because it was located in an office building and it was impossible to know what women were coming for abortions by just standing outside the building.
A lawyer for Zastro said that the only agreement the group made was to “save lives” and that there was no yelling or carrying any weapons. Boyd’s lawyer made a similar argument saying that the group would have “yelled and not sang church hymns,” and carried weapons not Bibles if they had malicious intent.
Steve Crampton, representing Vaughn, said the government’s case against his client was based on “inferences and innuendos,” and not evidence. He pointed to one video used as evidence by the government that showed one pro-life woman speaking to another who had just shown up to Carafem. The pro-life woman offered the other help, which Crampton said showed the “heart” of the situation. He said the group saw what was going as “matters of life and death.”
Crampton also pointed to the government’s suggestion that the presence of a large crowd meant inherent intimidation, saying taking that position could be detrimental toward the right to assembly.
Several of the defense lawyers pointed to the testimony of Caroline Davis, who was one of those arrested at Carafem before taking a plea deal earlier this year and agreed to testify for the government. Bell pointed to the demeanor change of Davis from when she was being questioned by government prosecutors to when she was being cross-examined by lawyers for the defendants.
During her testimony, Davis had become repeatedly exasperated with questions from Bell, especially when asked about how many times she met with the government before the trial. Idoni’s lawyer pointed to how much preparation Davis had with the government before testifying and said that she “relished being the center of attention” during her Thursday and Friday testimony.
During her final statements to the jury, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Klopf likened the actions of the six pro-lifers to that of a group of people attempting to convince someone not to vote, and blocking the entrance of a polling location. She said that “something is not peaceful if laws are broken.”
The courtroom gallery and an overflow room were both packed with roughly 70 people in attendance, mainly friends and family of the defendants. Attendants who spoke with The Daily Wire had traveled from as Michigan, Mississippi, and various parts of Tennessee.