Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Former CoG NPIO testifies in federal court about prison ministry

Our former NPIO for 2008 - Lisa Cowley Morgenstern - went to testify in federal court last week in Sacramento, CA. about her work as a prison volunteer chaplain.   As I have reported before this case concerns a lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections that was filed by inmates and Wiccan prison chaplain - Parrick McCollum  Here is an excerpt from Lisa'a report on her testimony titled: My trip to Sacramento to Testify in a Federal Court about Wiccan Prison Ministry

 "...I wrote the DAG about a couple of days before the court date for the Evidentiary hearing to ask how I should formally accept the subpoena, and to ask for a witness fee and correct my address. They had put an extra number in my street address. I got a phone call on Friday, I think, telling me that the primary on the case was back after being on vacation and that he didn’t think I needed to come all the way up to Sacramento. So he was going to “release me” from my subpoena. He said, “Since the other side has already approved the unsigned declaration…” and I said, “But I didn’t sign it because it was inaccurate…” and was interrupted by “Well I can’t imagine what is inaccurate about it, and… we just don’t need you to come up, OK?” So, hmm. I called the other side and said that it looked like I didn’t have to go; but they asked me if I would come anyway, and that they’d ask for me with the judge. I had already made plans to visit a friend in Sacramento and bring another friend to help me drive, so I figured I would just go and see what happened. I felt that it was weird for me to be released from a federal subpoena over the telephone, and was worried something bad would happen if I didn’t show up, since I never got anything in writing confirming the telephone call.

Fast forward to Wednesday morning at 10am the day of the hearing. I had spent time on the phone the night before with Patrick McCollum correcting the unsigned declaration because I learned they had submitted it into evidence. That way, I figured, even if the judge didn’t want to hear from me, I had something to give them. At first the DAGs didn’t want to submit it, as the declaration I did without them was much more thorough, but the judge asked for it, so it happened. It turns out this evidentiary hearing was actually just to hear what I had to say as the volunteer Wiccan Chaplain for that inmate and the yard where he is housed. It was a bigger deal than I thought."   ...(Cont.)...