Pro-life demonstrator found not guilty of harassment
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A pro-life demonstrator charged with harassment for spraying holy water at pro-choice demonstrators outside of a women's clinic in Huntsville has been found not guilty.
A municipal judge ruled Friday that 71-year-old Joyce Fectau did not break any laws for spraying liquid she called holy water.
When Municipal Judge Cybil Cleveland told the courtroom full of people that Fecteau was not guilty, her backers broke into applause, some of them broke into tears.
The case came down to intent. The question was whether Fecteau intend to annoy or alarm the Alabama Women's Center volunteers, as misdemeanor harassment is defined, by spraying them purposely, or if she was trying to spray the burning stick of sage that volunteers carried past her several times.
Her defense attorney called Fecteau to the stand Friday. She testified that an herbalist had told her that the sage smoke could harm her health. She said she asked an officer to ask the volunteers to keep the smoke away from the designated area for pro-life demonstrators.
"I don't know how many people were praying for us, even around the world," said Facteau's husband. "We heard from New London, which I think is in Australia, and in Africa, that people were praying for us. And we got a lot of local people praying for us. We don't even know how many. We're just very, very grateful."
The head of the women's center volunteer program said she feels like they won despite the verdict because things have been more peaceful between demonstrators.
"It's been a victory for us because things are so much better at the clinic," said volunteer organizer Pamela Watters. "They all know now if they break the law, if they harass us or physically push us or anything like that, we won't hesitate to call the police. Things have been so much better since all of this happened."
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