Published: Monday, July 18, 2011, 10:44 AM Updated: Monday, July 18, 2011, 11:14 AM
GREENFIELD -- Jury selection got under way Monday morning in the trial of two New Hampshire men accused of illegally filming their encounter with law enforcement officials at the Franklin County Jail & House of Correction last summer.
Pete Eyre and Adam Mueller, founder of the "pro-police accountability" organization Cop Block -- which advocates filming or photographing police and posting those images online -- were arrested July 1, 2010, outside the Greenfield jail when they refused to stop filming on the premises.
The men, who had gone to the facility to bail out two friends being held on drug and weapons charges, claim there were no signs indicating they could not film at the jail. They continued to record the encounter against officers' orders, leading to their arrest by Greenfield police.
On Monday morning, Eyre and Mueller and about 50 supporters gathered outside the Franklin County Courthouse with placards protesting police tactics that they believe tread on their natural freedoms. Eyre and Mueller, both of New Hampshire, are so-called voluntaryists who adhere to the principles of a stateless society based on natural law, not a formal system of rules and regulations with law enforcers such as police and other agents of the state.
As of 10 a.m., the legal proceeding had not resulted in any conflagrations in or outside the courthouse. At a previous court appearance, supporters of Eyre and Mueller caused a minor disturbance at the conclusion of that proceeding, prompting extra securitty at Monday's trial.
In an effort to control the crowd and avoid any disruptions, court guards sealed off a wing abutting the Superior Court courtroom, where the trial is taking place even though it is a District Court case.
Picking a jury can take hours or even days, depending on the nature of a case and how much media exposure it has received. In Eyre and Mueller's case, the duo launched a media blitz in advance of Monday's trial, though the effectiveness of that campaign remains unclear. There were no TV stations evident at the courthouse complex, and only a handful of print-media reporters were covering the trial.
Any chance of reaching a last-minute plea deal with the defendants before the trial apparently was off the table; Mueller was wearing a T-shirt inside the courtroom that made it plainly clear that a plea was not an acceptable option.
District Court Judge William F. Mazanec is presiding over the trial, which could last a few days.
The men appear to be representing themselves, though an attorney was present on Monday and several times during pretrial motions stood to whisper in their ears.
Eyre and Mueller's black-and-gold "Liberty on Tour" mobile home was parked outside the courthouse. Despite their current legal woes, the men are touring the nation this summer to espouse their views on a voluntary society and their message of publicly challenging law enforcement officials by filming and photographing them and placing those images online.