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This article originally appeared on the front page of the Bakersfield Californian newspaper on Tuesday, August 13, 1991
Guilty verdict eased for woman

Judge gives light sentence for pregnant abortion protester

By Cristy Simons-Morgan
Californian staff writer

LOS ANGELES - The jury didn't want to convict her.

The judge didn't want to sentence her.

Even the district attorney was anxious to see it end.

But the wheels of justice keep turning, even when those involved can't bear to see it happen.

This was what faced Bakersfield resident Terri Palmquist, the judge and jury that tried her last week in the East Los Angeles Municipal Court. She faced charges of trespassing, failure to disperse, blocking a thoroughfare, and resisting arrest stemming from her involvement in Operation Rescue activities earlier this year in the organization's attempt to block entrance to an abortion clinic in East Los Angeles.

Terri Palmquist and family leave courtroom after verdict

Abortion protester Terri Palmquist, husband Tim and their three children head for home Monday. Mrs. Palmquist was given a suspended sentence that included credit for time spent in court.

The district attorney had to present a case based only on law and fact, when the entire trial revolved around the explosive issue of abortion.

The judge faced trying a woman in her seventh month of pregnancy who was acting on religious convictions at the time of her arrest. He was also up against trying a woman acting as her own counsel because she wouldn't accept the plea bargain suggested by several attorneys.

The jury, who had the hardest job of all, faced trying the woman on trespassing charges and not the abortion issue that prompted her action in their duty to uphold the law.

In the end, that duty was met as the jury returned with guilty verdicts Monday on the charges of failure to disperse, resisting arrest, and blocking a thoroughfare and an acquittal on the charge of trespassing. In that charge they were unconvinced that she was occupying private property.

Judge Henry Barela, in a move that surprised all, suspended her sentence, adding that the time spent in the trial would count as time served.

"It was a tough case," said jury foreman John Saenz of Long Beach. "She was bringing up a lot of facts about abortion. I can accept her belief in the cause, but it really had nothing to do with her arrest as far as the law was concerned.

"I would have felt bad if she would have gone to jail but we had to uphold the law; her religious beliefs couldn't excuse her."

Bill Kulikoff, a juror from La Mirada, was relieved by the sentence. "I'm glad. I couldn't see a pregnant woman go to jail, especially since I'm a new dad."

Juror Marcy Thornton of West Covina found it an emotional case. "I did a lot of crying," she said. "I'm thrilled with her sentence."

Palmquist, surprisingly enough, was not thrilled. "I'm not sure what to say," she said, tears rolling down her face as family and friends crowded around to embrace her. "I don't know if it has helped. Being found guilty isn't that much of a victory considering babies are still dying."

Trying case ends

The verdicts ended a week of emotional testimony which was fueled by the near-constant conflict between the laws governing the case and Palmquist's desire to explain why she did what she did.

"You have to separate the arrest from the issue of abortion," said Deputy District Attorney Thomas Rubinson. "Legally, the arrest had nothing to do with the issue of abortion and it's something the jury shouldn't take into consideration."

Note from Tim Palmquist (7/1/2005)

This article failed to mention the fact that all of the pro-lifers involved in this rescue were peaceful (there were no allegations of violence against them), while the violence was committed by dozens of homosexual ACT-UP activists who continuously assaulted the peaceful Christians. Terri (who was pregnant at the time but did not yet realize it) was violently kicked for about 30 minutes by ACT-UP protesters, who also got her wet with an unknown fluid. Yet the police refused to arrest any of the ACT-UP protesters and refused to pursue charges against the protesters when Terri and others provided documentation of their injuries.

We praise God that our son, Matthew, who was in Terri's womb when she suffered this attack, was not injured in any way! To God be the glory!

Rubinson's case was based on Palmquist being at the scene, something she admitted. It was strengthened by a videotape which showed her remaining near the door of the clinic after the order to disperse was given and being carried to the police van after her arrest.

Palmquist defended herself on the premise that she was exercising her constitutional right to defend life. Her case was based on witness claims that officials ignored the violence that surrounded the conflict on the abortion issue, and arrested the more peaceful of the demonstrators.

She had planned on calling witnesses to testify on the nature of abortion and what was taking place in the clinic which was blocked.

The judge deemed the testimony of several of those witnesses irrelevant based on Palmquist's synopsis of what they were going to testify to.

"You're missing the boat here," the judge told her, explaining that the practice of abortion was not an issue in the trial, only whether she had broken the law.

This question of relevance surrounded the entire trial, causing Palmquist to feel she was being treated unfairly. "I don't feel the truth is able to be shown," she said.

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