OAKLAND, Calif.: An appellate court overturned Elder Walter Hoye’s criminal conviction for violating Oakland’s “Mother May I” law restricting sidewalk counseling. In a jury trial in 2009, Hoye was found guilty of two counts of unlawfully approaching women seeking abortions at an Oakland abortion clinic; the court sentenced him to 30 days in jail and an $1100 fine.
Hoye was represented by LLDF attorneys Katie Short and Allison Aranda and volunteer attorney Michael Millen.
In its published opinion, the Appellate Division of the Alameda Superior Court agreed with Hoye’s attorneys that the trial court had erred in two respects. First, the trial court refused to instruct the jury that it had to unanimously agree on the particular incident for which Hoye was to be found guilty. Because the district attorney’s office presented evidence of several separate interactions between Hoye and persons entering the clinic, it was unclear whether the jury had all agreed on a single instance where Hoye allegedly violated the ordinance.
Second, the trial court refused defense requests to provide a definition of “knowingly approach,” a critical element of the “crime” for which Pastor Hoye was convicted. By failing to provide a definition, the court stated, the trial court left the jury unaware that the ordinance does not apply to stationary speakers who address and proffer literature to persons passing by.
However, this may not be the end of the road for the case. “The District Attorney’s office could decide to retry Pastor Hoye,” Short explained. “However, it would be well advised to wait until after the Ninth Circuit rules in our federal constitutional challenge to the ordinance, which is scheduled for a hearing in October.”
In the meantime, Hoye is heartened by this turn of events “It is my hope that this victory will encourage Pastors to both take a public stand against abortion in the pulpit and to minister the love of Christ to the men, women and children going into an abortion clinic from the public square. It is time for men of God to come together and end the incontestable evil of abortion, anywhere and everywhere it exists.”