- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 16, 2003


A federal judge’s repeated admonishment yesterday to a North Carolina tobacco farmer accused in a March standoff on the Mall was “no speeches.”

U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson set today for the start of jury selection in the case of Dwight Ware Watson, 50, who caused days of traffic backups when authorities say he drove his tractor into a pond on the Mall, claiming he had explosives. He sat there for two days while police sharpshooters kept him in their sights.

Mr. Watson is charged with making a false threat to use explosives and destroying government property. No explosives were found. If convicted, Mr. Watson could face 10 years in prison on each count.

Judge Jackson took pains yesterday to make sure Mr. Watson understood all the steps in the process, as well as his obligations in acting as his own defense lawyer. That included several warnings against trying to use the trial as a platform for his grievances. Mr. Watson claims federal tobacco policies ruined his family.

Dressed in a dark blue jail uniform, Mr. Watson was attentive and polite, asking the judge a number of questions. Judge Jackson also rejected Mr. Watson’s list of potential witnesses to be subpoenaed, including former President Bill Clinton and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.

The judge announced an initial pool of 75 potential jurors, but indicated that might not be enough from which to draw an impartial panel of 12 jurors and two alternates, since so many people were inconvenienced by the standoff.

During the 48 hours Mr. Watson held police at bay, authorities closed several roads, creating traffic backups stretching through the District and neighboring Northern Virginia. Four consecutive rush hours were affected.

Judge Jackson reminded Mr. Watson he had a right to waive a jury trial, but the defendant declined, saying he believed a jury could be found that would “do the right thing.”

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