In a Wisconsin Courtroom, Forget Even Talking About Healthy Food
There were times today in a Baraboo, WI, courtroom, when I wondered if I was still living in the United States of America.
It started first thing when one of the prosecutors in the Vernon Hershberger case, Eric DeFort, complained to the judge that the lead defense lawyer, Glenn Reynolds, was using the word "liberty" too often, as in "Vernon Hershberger's liberty is at stake in this trial" (because of that little detail that he could be sent to jail for two years or more).
To which Glenn Reynolds responded: "I’ve been trying cases for 35 years and I’ve never had an objection to that. It’s inherent in criminal versus civil cases."
The prosecution was right, yet again, said the Judge, Guy Reynolds. "Objection sustained. No more reference by counsel to the threat to the defendant’s liberty."
It ended with the questioning of a defense witness, one of Vernon Hershberger's food club members, Joseph Plasterer. He was asked by defense attorney Glenn Reynolds to explain why he sought out Hershberger's food back in 2004, when he joined the food club.
Plasterer: "We asked if we could be part of the farm…"
Glenn Reynolds: "Did you have a reason?"
Plasterer: "My son was not thriving…"
Prosecutor Eric DeFort: "Objection!"
Judge: "Objections sustained."
Glenn Reynolds: "Explain why you sought out Hershberger's food."
Plasterer: "We wanted access to unprocessed food that was higher quality than would not be available from the stores."
Judge: "Objection sustained. Strike the answer. Jury is to ignore the answer."
I know it's becoming increasingly difficult in certain places to access food privately. But illegal to speak of it? That was a new one. It was an apparent outgrowth of the judge's efforts over the last few months to restrict or eliminate any discussion of raw milk, legalities of private food, food safety, and other topics related to food and health.
But in between, the jury got to hear from Vernon Hershberger's dad, Daniel Hershberger. A big man with a full gray beard, he explained in a deep voice how Vernon became adept at using a horse-drawn plow, and how the Amish philosophy the Hershbergers' community lived by was to "share food with the hungry." Food club members "didn't own the land, but shared in food."
Members who didn't have enough money could earn their keep by raking manure and cleaning milk bottles.
Needless to say, the prosecution didn't get very far in trying to make him look bad during cross examination. At one point, the elder Hershberger bemoaned, "I come from a generation where a handshake meant something. And I seem to be in a generation where it doesn’t, and where everything is technical."
But even he ran afoul of the judge's censoring. When asked about his motivations for making good food widely available, he said, "From my teaching, I am very passionate about the health conditions of this country."
Judge: "Sustained. I am not going to permit any witness to get into this."
But the point had been made, and hopefully the jury was listening. The case could go to the jury by the end of Friday.
The first copies of my book, "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights", arrived in Baraboo today. I got my first look at the final version, complete with index and such. Pretty cool. Several dozen attendees snatched copies up, with inscriptions from Joel Salatin, who wrote the foreword, and from me.