First Day of Rasmea Odeh Trial (Report from the Rasmea Defense Committee)
Ninety supporters of Palestinian community leader Rasmea Odeh filled an overflow courtroom today for the beginning of her trial in Detroit, MI. They came from Chicago, Minneapolis, Grand Rapids, Ohio, Milwaukee, Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Detroit, and were barred from the main courtroom because dozens of potential jurors were seated there. The proceedings began with defense attorney Michael Deutsch asking Judge Gershwin Drain to reconsider his decision not to allow Rasmea to testify about the vicious physical and sexual torture she experienced at the hands of the Israeli military. Judge Drain refused to change his mind, guaranteeing that when she takes the stand Rasmea will not be free to tell her full story.
The jury selection followed, with 32 potential jurors taking seats in front of the attorneys for questioning. Supporters were surprised to notice that an overwhelming majority of potential jurors were white, even in a downtown Detroit courthouse in Wayne County, where local residents are mostly Black and Arab. Many of the jurors stated that they were from Oakland County, where the population is over 77% white. Judge Drain asked questions of all the potential jurors, including some that were submitted by the prosecution and defense, respectively. They were asked if they had heard about the case the news, and also screened for potential bias, with questions posed as to whether they held any negative beliefs about Palestinians or Muslims.
After the jury was selected, Rasmea’s supporters gathered outside the courthouse for a rally and march to the federal building. Chanting “DOJ Let’s Be Clear, Rasmea is Welcome Here!” the supporters also heard statements from Frank Chapman of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, Jess Sundin of the Rasmea Defense Committee, and representatives of Students for Justice in Palestine from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and Kenyon College in Gambier, OH.
Supporters of Rasmea recommitted to rally outside the courthouse at 8am and enter together every day this week. Tomorrow, after opening statements, the prosecution will begin to call its witnesses, including agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Department of the Homeland Security, and the State Department. In response to this we continue our call to all supporters of Rasmea to pack the Courtroom every day of her trial!