Last week, Judge Claudia Wilken lifted the gag order she had placed on the jury that awarded Darryl Cherney and the estate of Judi Bari $4.4 million in their civil rights lawsuit against the FBI and the Oakland Police Department. The week previous, the judge had heard arguments from an attorney representing the San Francisco Chronicle and the Oakland Tribune challenging the order.
The AVA had a long conversation with juror Mary Nunn of Oakley on Monday, excerpts of which follow. Nunn, the only juror who has agreed to discuss the case with the media in any detail, was by her own reckoning the staunchest supporter of the Earth First case in the deliberation room. She is an American Airlines ticket agent.
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Nunn: There were a couple of individuals who came from — I don’t know — protected environments that were on our jury. They’re just kind of far removed from the things that are happening today. That doesn’t make them bad, it’s just that they haven’t been exposed to much. As a result, they don’t view things the same way.
AVA: It’s one of those kinds of experiences when you come into contact with people that you wouldn’t normally, in your regular life.
Nunn: Exactly. Although I make exchanges with all kinds of people every day — they’re quick, fast, to the point and over with, do you know what I mean? And although I probably deal all the time with people like some of the individuals that were on this jury, I would never know because I don’t get into intimate conversations with them dealing with issues such as these.
I brought a lot of life experiences to the table. I brought… just a lot of life in general, from how I thought about the case and how they [Bari and Cherney] were treated. Some people, you know, they didn’t have that to fall back on.
AVA: What kind of experiences do you mean?
Nunn: I don’t know. I was raised in foster homes, and in very diverse neighborhoods. I lived in the projects. I’ve seen a lot of things. And — I don’t know — I’ve been subjected to many things. I think in comparison to living in, say, upper-crust Lafayette, where you live in a protected environment, where there’s not much crime, where the police don’t come into your neighborhood, where you’re far removed from such ventures.
It’s hard for someone like that to make that jump to the idea where a policeman might not be abiding by the rules at all times. There were a few people who found it very inconceivable that a policeman or an FBI agent would risk their jobs to do these things — to put their job on the line. What they never understood is that [the cops’] jobs were never on the line. They couldn’t understand that. They never understood that that was never an issue.
AVA: Your view is that this wasn’t just a mistake by the FBI.
Nunn: I think there were many different factors. I think this group had a reputation — or a supposed reputation. [FBI Agent Frank] Doyle was on the scene very fast, and he influenced the Oakland police. They listened to him. And hence, it sabotaged the whole thing from that point onward. [Bari and Cherney] were considered this terrorist group, which in fact they weren’t, and they were treated as such. They were arrested within hours, and home-searched by FBI helicopters. I thought it was outlandish. And in two months’ time, the district attorney also said that it was outlandish and threw it all out. You see? It was just too much of a jump, and there was nothing ever really there.
AVA: But do you think it was malicious? Do you think Doyle was out to besmirch their reputation?
Nunn: I think that to continue searching, and not to give it up… I mean, they could have let them go. See, they did everything backwards. They arrested them and then they went out investigating, via the search. When they should have searched first. They should have investigated before they arrested them. Especially in Judi’s case. Judi wasn’t going anywhere. The poor woman was in surgery. She wasn’t going anywhere. There was no rush to do anything.
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Nunn: I was in the line checking in some people, and one of the people I checked in was friends with one of the FBI’s attorneys. He started asking me questions about the case. He asked me what I thought about the attorneys. I told him the attorneys were neither here nor there, for me. Well, they were, but that wasn’t one of the fundamentals of the case. It was the facts of the case and how it was handled. It wasn’t, ultimately, about whether they shmoozed me or not — which they didn’t.
He asked me how we responded to their attorneys. They were of the feeling that we didn’t like them very much.
AVA: This was just chance? They recognized you, they had seen part of the case or something?
Nunn: They were flying on my airline.
AVA: But they must have recognized you somehow.
Nunn: They recognized me, yes.
AVA: So what did you think of the attorneys, then?
Nunn: For which side?
AVA: Well, let’s start with Mr. Sher and Mr. Barghaan, the FBI attorneys.
Nunn: Well, do you know the word “generic?” Their personalities tended to be generic — bland. They weren’t appealing. They didn’t make a connection with us. They weren’t ones you warm up with, huh? As opposed to maybe Cunningham. Cunningham had this boyish charm. He made us giggle, he made us laugh. We liked his innocence and his fumblings. It looked so innocent. It may not have been, but we enjoyed him. We earnestly liked him. We thought he was cute. He was adorable! He was an older man, but he was adorable, the way he carries himself and his appeal. He was very appealing, and that’s important in trials.
AVA: Mr. Serra?
Nunn: I personally had a lot of respect for Mr. Serra. A lot of the jurors were conservative — very conservative, many of them, maybe even Republicans. It took us a lot to get what we got in that room, believe me. But I could relate to Mr. Serra, given that I’ve been to Baptist churches many times. So I could relate to him, but to them Mr. Serra was preaching, so to speak. I responded to him. He was passionate. He was moved, you see. So I personally could relate to him, but not everyone could. They thought he was standing before a pulpit almost.
I liked his style, I like his tactics. But my favorite — my favorite of all — was Mr. Bloom. I never saw such a suave man.
AVA: Is that so?
Nunn: I would sit in my chair and privately say to myself, “Go to work, Mr. Bloom.” Okay? Because that was exactly what he was doing. He was just suave, the way he brought things out! He was good!
AVA: He ended up squabbling with the judge a couple of times, huh?
Nunn: Oh, so what. You have to understand something. The judge represents the law. The FBI represents the law. The cops represent the law. So there’s some things you have to wonder about, do you understand? In some respect, she may — in her own right, not trying to be blatant about it — she may have had some partiality toward them, you understand? You have to understand that these people are part of her forum, in the sense that they all represent the law. You see? Right?
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AVA: What was the hang-up on Mr. Cherney’s arrest?
Nunn: The hang-up was not that they had something or didn’t have something — we never felt that they had something on these people, and no one in that room felt that they were carrying the bomb. Not one. We had one individual in that room who felt that, given the time, and given the things they found in [Cherney’s] van — the rebar and whatnot [part of a road-spiking kit, according to Cherney, which was given to him and which he intended to put to different uses] — this particular individual surmised that it wasn’t as much of a rush.
But see, they should have let them go. They should have let him go that last night. I’m one of the ones that hung that up. The reason why I did, is that I wanted him to have that to retry again if he wanted to. That hurt me, that he didn’t get that. He deserved it. He was a passenger, for God’s sakes! Think about that. He was a passenger. It just wasn’t justified. But we couldn’t get [another juror] to come on board with it. We did get her to come on board with many, many other things. It was give and take.
AVA: Another thing that was interesting about the verdict: in every case where you found for both Judi and Darryl, you ended up awarding Judi more money.
Nunn: I didn’t agree with that. I didn’t agree with the money at all. I wanted very high money. I wanted $40 million — I didn’t want that low number. But the richest woman on our jury — the one that wore the Rolex — only wanted $100,000. And we did an average. That’s why the number dropped so severely.
I also kept telling them within the jury that if any time Darryl dropped below a million, then I’m not playing any more. I’ll hang this whole thing up, and we won’t have any verdict. We’ll give this to someone more worthy of delivering. I was very adamant about that.
They never reinstated his life. They arrested him, they smeared him in the media. Nobody wanted to be attached to him anymore. They ripped his whole character. It was horrible! If someone locked me up for five days, my dogs would die.
Why did Judi get more? I didn’t agree with that. I thought it should be even, and I wanted really large money.
AVA: Do you know why other people wanted to give Judi more?
Nunn: I think she was painted so larger than life. She was mentioned so much more — everything was “Judi, Judi, Judi.” I knew why it was. I knew it was because she had surpassed this life. I don’t know — just that she was injured more, because she had children, because they were left without her. I don’t know.
Let me explain something to you. In our deliberations, nobody wanted to talk money. In three weeks, nobody wanted to talk money. They wouldn’t. And all this time, I kept saying, “We need to talk about money. This verdict is about money.” They kept rehashing this stuff: who’s going to be responsible. We had to go through every article, bring out the significance. Who contributed to what, and to what percentile. We had to give a percentile before we even got to an amount!
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Nunn: They’re pretty scary people, the FBI.
AVA: You thought so?
Nunn: Well, they’re very powerful. I think they have the ability to hurt you if they want to. I think they have the ability and power to bring you down if they want to, absolutely.
AVA: Were some of the FBI people you saw on the stand scarier than others?
Nunn: Scarier? I wouldn’t say so much scary. I wouldn’t want to be them when they go to meet their maker, how’s that? They can do whatever they want on this Earth. My only consolation is that I won’t share Heaven with folks like that.
So, scared? No. I’m not scared of mortal man. I’m really not. I grew up in a project home. I was the only white girl within a ten-mile radius. No, I’m not a scared type, even with an FBI agent, do you know what I mean? I’m not intimidated in that way. I respect the law, because I think it’s necessary. We’d have chaos without it. But do I believe that a remote few abuse it? Absolutely. I know they do.
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Nunn: Here you had the people of Earth First. They come and they take the stand — very, very demure character, very submissive — the judge would say something like, “You need to answer that.” “Oh, yes, your honor.” No arrogance at all. When they spoke of things, when they reflected on their projects and their plights, they didn’t have all that anger and all that crud going on. When actually, they were more deserving of it.
They were different people. They were a people that exuded love and warmth and good feeling, and you could feel that from across the room. I didn’t have to shake their hand or know their names. Do you understand me? I felt that in the room. That’s all they had.
They just weren’t the type. These people are people that protect our environment. The things we take for granted are their whole way of life, do you understand me? That doesn't go hand-in-hand with going out and bombing somebody. People who go so far to protect a tree, they wouldn’t dare hurt something that’s got blood flowing through it, you understand? It doesn’t fit!
And these people, it’s almost like they had an aura about them, or a light about them… A light! A light. A goodness that flows from them.
AVA: You could sense it?
Nunn: Like a spiritual thing. They were beautiful! I wanted to run away and become one of them. I’m not kidding! I mean, I was really impressed. They were just beautiful people. They were gorgeous. I was checking them out to and fro the courtroom. They were great people. One time I was in line waiting to get in, and they were concerned about Darryl getting his diabetic medication. Did he have a sweet? They brought him a bagel, they said. And I said to myself [whispers] “That’s gorgeous.”
People took time out of their day — they gave up their income, they were there every day. They were faithful, they were loyal. Who’s got friends like that? I’ve got one or two, but I don’t have a hundred and fifty. What does that say about this gentleman? That he doesn’t have good spirit and good character, to have people such as that? That come every day? Those FBI agents didn’t have that.
I adored the whole group. I adored Darryl Cherney, I adored the beautiful daughter [Lisa Bari]. I’m feel very gypped that I never got the pleasure of absorbing Judi Bari within the courtroom. I felt doubly gypped — and so did many others of us — that we couldn’t go out and meet with them after the verdict and celebrate with them.
You know, there were quite a few people that were really working in there. And we had a lot to work up against. We had some real conservatives. Yeah, yeah, we won them over, but it was a fight, it was a battle, it was a challenge, but we did it. We got the job done. Because we were passionate.
I cared deeply about what was going to happen to them. As a matter of fact, when I was driving home I used to say, out loud, “I got your back, Judi. It ain’t going to go down the way they think it is.” I used to say this on the way home, and I don’t even know her, do you know what I’m saying? But did I want to fight for her? Yeah, you better believe it.
AVA: That’s amazing.
Nunn: It’s not amazing at all. You gotta stand for something or you’re going to fall for anything. You understand me? When you see evil and you see good, you’d better get with the good. I don’t belong to any organized religion, believe me, but I have a very intimate relationship with my Father in Heaven. And I believe very much that he watches us and acknowledges us, and that it’s important what we do. I think we’re accountable for our actions, in the end. And not only that — do you want me to tell you the most important thing of all?
AVA: What’s that?
Nunn: A lot of people don’t know this. It just feels good. There’s no better high in all the world than to do good. It warms your whole heart up. You carry it with you all day, and you can’t even buy a drug that will give you that.