The lawyers of three Dominican nuns who entered a Weld County nuclear missile site in 2002 and were convicted of two felonies will argue that they intended to “send a message to the world,” but not to threaten national security.
Their attorneys started their argument Friday before a three-judge panel at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. They asked that the nuns' sabotage convictions be reversed or their cases retried.
Nearly two years ago, Jackie Hudson, Carol Gilbert and Ardeth Platte slipped into the missile compound and used bottles of their own blood to draw a cross on the silo lid.
An hour later, military personnel arrived with weapons drawn and found the nuns singing and praying.
The three nuns of the Dominican order, originally from Michigan, were tried and convicted of two felonies - obstructing national defense and damaging government property. They received from 30 to 41-month prison terms.
"In this case, the only thing the sisters had the intent to do was to cut the fence and send a message to the world," argued Clifford J. Barnard, a Boulder lawyer representing one of the nuns to the Denver Post. "Intending to harm the fence is not the same thing as harming national defense," he added.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney James Murphy said the sisters carefully planned their 2002 trip to Colorado, and that their intrusion into the site, which houses a Minuteman III nuclear warhead, caused significant disruption as military personnel converged on the area.
"I cannot agree with you that it did not impair the national defense," Murphy said. "They (personnel) were diverted from their duties of guarding the other missile silos."
The judges who heard the appeal will issue a decision at a later date.