Jury finds Round Rock student not guilty

Austin American-Statesman

Round Rock student not guilty of disrupting class in immigration protest

Morris, DeLuna, Williamson

Round Rock High School student Irvin DeLuna, 15, is congratulated by his attorneys Ernest Saadiq Morris, left and Travis Williamson on Friday in Round Rock Municipal Court after being found not guilty on Class C misdemeanor charges for disruption of classes. DeLuna and other students from Stony Point and Round Rock high schools were issued citations for curfew violations and disruption of classes by Round Rock Police for joining other students protesting federal immigration legislation last March.

By Katie Humphrey

Friday, November 03, 2006

A jury today acquitted the first Round Rock student who went to trial after being cited for disrupting class in March during protests against federal immigration legislation.

The jury of three men and three women found 15-year-old Irvin DeLuna not guilty of the Class C misdemeanor violation after deliberating about an hour and 20 minutes.

“I’m just happy,” DeLuna said outside the courtroom after hearing the verdict.

He could have faced up to a $500 fine if convicted.

DeLuna was one of more than 100 Round Rock High School students who marched to Stony Point High School and back on March 31 in protest of the proposed immigration legislation. Stony Point High School students had marched to Round Rock High School in protest the day before.

Round Rock police issued 204 citations to students following the second day of student protests. Some students were charged with violating the city’s daytime curfew, disrupting class or both.

Since then, 49 cases of curfew violation were dismissed by Round Rock Municipal Court Judge Dan McNery at the prosecutor’s request. Other students pleaded guilty in exchange for fines and community service.

Throughout the two-day trial, city prosecutor Susan Camp-Lee had argued that DeLuna, in joining other students in the march, disrupted the regular classroom routines at both Round Rock and Stony Point High schools, which were in “lockdown” during the protests.

“There’s a lot of places to go and protest in Round Rock and they chose Stony Point High School,” she said in her closing argument. “Of all the places they could go, they went to a school, so I think you can infer what their intent was: to disrupt.”

But defense attorney Travis Williamson, who voluntarily represented DeLuna at the request of the Texas Civil Rights Project, told jurors that any lockdowns or classroom disruptions were unintended. The students were exercising their right to peacefully voice their concerns about an issue they were passionate about, he said.

“That’s the only way a student can be heard” he said in his closing argument. “It’s a protected activity. They can’t vote. The only thing they can do is protest.”

DeLuna said after the trial that he knew the school might punish the students for missing class, but did not realize he would face criminal charges. In light of what happened, he said he probably wouldn’t protest again during the school day.

“I was trying to make it peaceful, but it was too much of a problem,” DeLuna said.

Juror Jon Silver, 41, of Round Rock said after the trial that the jury thought prosecutors did not prove that DeLuna intended to disrupt classes. The Texas Education Code says that someone can be charged with disruption of classes for intentionally disturbing classes or other school activities while on school property or public property within 500 feet of a school.

“All the testimony said was that all the kids said they were going to Stony Point,” he said. “Nobody said why.”

Forty-eight cases are still pending against students who participated in the protests.

khumphrey@statesman.com; 246-0053

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