ANN ARBOR, Mich. — An Ann Arbor physician was acquitted by a Washtenaw County jury Monday night of misdemeanor criminal charges accusing her of attempting to impede police and emergency medical technicians at a campus disturbance last year.
In closing arguments Monday, Dr. Catherine Wilkerson s attorney, Hugh Davis, had argued she was simply trying to help a man she believed was at risk of dying.
Washtenaw County Assistant Prosecutor Margaret Connors painted Wilkerson as a political activist who ignored repeated orders from police and medical personnel as they tried to treat protester Blaine Coleman.
The differing versions of what happened during a protest at a campus speech last year were presented during closing arguments in 15th District Court Monday. The jury debated more than four hours before issuing its verdict.
Wilkerson could not be reached for comment this morning.
Bill Tanner, a co-counsel for Wilkerson, this morning said her testimony on the stand was a pivotal moment.
She s happy, he said. She s ecstatic. She feels vindicated and she is grateful to the jurors who did their job.
Wilkerson had been on trial since last week, facing two misdemeanor counts of attempting to impede police and emergency medical technicians.
You re at the risk of criminalizing free speech and protest … along with the act of medical personnel trying to help fellow citizens, Wilkerson s lawyer, Hugh Davis, told the jury.
Connors cited what she described as sarcastic, mocking, ridiculing behavior by Wilkerson, saying the doctor egged on the crowd as medical personnel attended to Coleman.
In her concluding remarks, Connors stood by a written list of charges against Wilkerson and made nearly two dozen check marks by the word obstruct.
Before that, Davis dramatically checked off his points on a legal pad as he spoke at length to the jury.
I just can t imagine where it ends if you can criminalize this kind of speech and an altruistic act by a doctor, Davis said.
One of the questions raised involved medical personnel using ammonia on Coleman. Davis said ammonia was used punitively, and Wilkerson was reacting to that.
The jury was given instructions by Judge Elizabeth Hines around 4 p.m. and came back with the verdict around 8:30 p.m.
The incident occurred Nov. 30, 2006, when protesters disrupted a lecture on U.S. foreign policy in Iran, held at the Michigan League. The protesters came to the League to oppose Raymond Tanter, a professor emeritus at U-M who served on the senior staff of the National Security Council during the Reagan administration.
Coleman, who regularly protests on behalf of the Palestinian cause, was treated that night for a cut to his forehead. He was charged with resisting a police officer and pleaded guilty. He was fined $395 and sentenced to probation.