TRIALS: No Again on the Conspiracy Law

After ten long weeks, 64 witnesses and many thousands of pages of testimony, the pivotal question in the trial of the Harrisburg Seven remained unanswered: When does chitchat become conspiracy?

From the beginning, the defense contended that the letters between the Rev. Philip Berrigan and Sister Elizabeth McAlister, some of which alluded to the kidnaping of Henry Kissinger and the blowing up of heating tunnels in Washington, D.C., were merely loose talk. "Conspiracy," said Assistant Defense Attorney Leonard Boudin in his closing argument, "is when a group of people get together and make a commitment—a firm commitment—to action." Countered Chief...

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