Grand jury comparison inappropriate

Jacob Swede

When I read the Nov. 23 letter to the editor âÄúSolidarity with political prisoners,âÄù I was left feeling disheartened and even a bit cheapened. As a long-time former citizen of Mankato, where the 38 Dakota were hanged in response to the Dakota War, I feel a deep personal connection to the legacy of the Dakota War. WaziyatawinâÄôs letter compared the activists Carrie Feldman and Scott DeMuth to the 38 Dakota who were hung in Mankato chiefly because Feldman and DeMuth âÄútook a principled stance to uphold their personal beliefs regarding truth and justice, demonstrating the highest level of moral integrityâÄù by not testifying to a grand jury. The contrast between Feldman and DeMuth and the 38 Dakota hanged is stark. After neglect from the government, late annuities payments, years of starving and losing huge plots of land to colonial America, the Dakota valiantly led an uprising against the government. For their efforts they were given five-minute sham trials and 38 were hanged in Mankato. For that we remember those 38 not only as victims of an unfair legal system blinded by cultural hatred, but also as proud people defying the stateâÄôs injustice. Feldman and DeMuthâÄôs case is substantially different. Originally, Feldman and DeMuth were charged with âÄúanimal-enterprise terrorismâÄù stemming from an event on Nov. 14 at the University of Iowa in which 88 mice and 313 rats were released from psychology facilities as well as damage incurred to the lab equipment totaling over $10,000 âÄî which constitutes domestic terrorism. As WaziyatawinâÄôs letter explains, the two alleged domestic terrorists refused to testify before the grand jury (despite being offered immunity) and now face counts of contempt of court. Where Waziyatawin sees the âÄúhighest level of moral integrityâÄù comparable to the 38 Dakota in this is hidden to me. This letter is not meant to condemn Feldmand and DeMuth to guilt; I donâÄôt believe I have the facts to pass that sort of judgment. Nor is this letter meant to be a blind appeal to the grand jury system âÄî to do so would be erasing the injustices done to those 38 Dakota. Fortunately, our current system compensates for those injustices by demanding a thorough, well-researched and presented case to be made to the grand jury. A far cry from the five-minute injustices done to the 38 Dakota âÄî far enough to warrant no comparison at all.