PHILADELPHIA (LifeSiteNews) — The blockbuster Mark Houck case has been adjourned until Monday after the jury reached a deadlock today following 2 1/2 hours of deliberation behind closed doors.
The news comes after an intense and emotional day of cross-examinations, during which the prosecutor for the U.S. government grilled Houck on his religious beliefs and claimed that the Catholic father of seven deliberately assaulted abortion “escort” Bruce Love because he “was a clinic escort for reproductive health services.”
READ: Mark Houck, 13-year-old son testify ahead of jury deliberations in pro-life case of the century
As originally reported by LifeSiteNews, Houck was subjected to a dawn raid by President Joe Biden’s FBI last year. The DOJ has charged Houck with two felonies for allegedly violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act when he pushed Love, 73, during sidewalk altercations on two separate occasions in 2021.
Houck’s trial, United States v. Mark Houck, began Tuesday and was originally expected to conclude Friday.
In a statement to LifeSiteNews after the news of the jury deadlock, Pro-Life Coalition of Pennsylvania spokeswoman and Houck family friend Ashley Garecht said her group would “spend this weekend in prayer, and in hopeful anticipation of a complete acquittal for Mark when the court reconvenes next week.”
“Mark Houck’s legal team has done terrific work showing that Mark acted only as a father defending his son from a known hostile and aggressive escort — indeed Planned Parenthood was so concerned about Mr. Love’s antics that they removed him as a volunteer for several months separate from the incident with Mark last year,” Garecht said.
“It is abundantly clear that Mark did not violate any aspect of the FACE Act and the government’s case is without merit,” she added.
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Catholic News Agency reporter Joe Bukuras has been reporting from the courtroom in Philadelphia and published a lengthy Twitter thread recounting the proceedings.
Bukuras said Mark Houck Jr. took the stand Friday, explaining to the jury that Mr. Love had verbally harassed him and cursed at him on the day that the altercations took place.
When the 13-year-old finished his testimony, he was embraced by his mother Ryan-Marie, who was in tears.
Houck Jr. said yes.
Defense asked him, and what did we tell you to tell the jury?
“The truth,” he said.
— Joe Bukuras (@JoeBukuras) January 27, 2023
According to Bukuras, Houck also became visibly emotional as he took the stand, describing his Wednesday sidewalk counseling trips to the Philadelphia abortion clinics as times of companionship and prayer with his son.
Houck recounted the events that unfolded during his altercations with Love, stating that the “escort” had verbally harassed his son.
He said he didn’t intend to hurt Love when he pushed him, adding through tears that he “pushed Mr. Love because he was harassing my 12-year-old boy.”
The defense asked: Why did you push Bruce Love?
“I pushed Mr. Love because he was harassing my 12-year-old boy,” Houck said tearing up on the stand.
— Joe Bukuras (@JoeBukuras) January 27, 2023
When the prosecution took its opportunity to cross-examine Houck, they quickly began to grill him on his sidewalk counseling and his ministry, The King’s Men, which helps men overcome pornography addiction.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Nicole Martin demanded whether Houck had ever called an abortion “escort” a “baby-killer” or a “murderer,” or said there was “a special place in hell for people like them,” according to Bukuras.
Houck denied the allegations, and repeatedly stated that he prays for abortion “escorts,” adding, “We’re all sinners.”
As previously reported by LifeSiteNews, Martin also asked Houck whether he was engaging in a “battle” in his sidewalk counseling.
“A spiritual battle,” he responded.
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According to Bukuras, Martin then asked Houck whether he had threatened to push Love into the street. Houck affirmed that he had made that remark, “unfortunately,” but couldn’t say precisely when he had said it.
Closing arguments ensued, Bukuras reported, with the prosecuting attorney contending that the altercations met all the requirements of a violation of the FACE Act.
The federal government claims that Houck undeniably pushed Love, as evidenced by video footage; that he did so to stop him from his work as an abortion “escort”; and that Houck had motive because he “had had enough” of Love performing his function, Burkuras reported.
Defense attorney Brian McMonagle, who is working in tandem with the Thomas More Society, however, told the jury that Houck had “a right to be on that sidewalk” and argued that the case centers around the first amendment.
He noted that, as previously reported by LifeSiteNews, the Planned Parenthood “escort” manual explicitly forbids “escorts” from engaging in altercations with protesters. He also observed that the CEO of the local Planned Parenthood chapter wanted Love pulled from his rotation because of his failures to abide by the policy.
READ: Defense attorneys in Mark Houck case bring crucial evidence to light as trial nears final stages
Observing that the Biden administration’s DOJ didn’t take up the case until a year after it occurred, McMonagle said “you’re darn right” the prosecution of Houck “has to do with politics,” according to Bukuras’ reporting.
According to McMonagle, Love “set in motion a chain of events that now jeopardizes that young man’s dad [pointing to Mark Jr.], and you know it.”
The jury was sent to deliberate at roughly 2:30 p.m. After about 2 1/2 hours of deliberation, they told the judge they had reached a deadlock and would be unable to render a decision that night.
The judge adjourned the case until Monday.
You can keep up with the updates on the Houck trial by following LifeSiteNews’ coverage as well as developments posted on the Thomas More Society’s website.
Most of all, readers are asked to pray for the legal team representing Houck, as well as for Houck himself, his wife, and their young children.