Frustrated judge calls court for the day, orders Parkers to the stand
The U.S. v. W.R. Grace case was unnecessarily delayed and the jurors’ overall time away from their jobs was prolonged, an agitated Molloy told a courtroom of attorneys and press, but no jury. Jurors were not present in court Monday, as Molloy and Kris A. McLean, the lead government attorney, traded words about victim-witnesses’ rights to be present in the court room.
Mel and Lerah Parker are at the center of this issue. The Libby couple, who have been diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases, wanted to watch the unfolding of the U.S. case against W.R. Grace and its executives — the chemical company and individuals who could be responsible for the Parkers’ terminal illnesses. But, because they are also witnesses for the government, Molloy ruled they could not be present in court until after their testimony — which was scheduled to come at the end of the prosecution’s case.
The Parkers appealed Molloy’s decision to exclude victim-witnesses from the courtroom and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision. It seemed that the Libby couple might have been able to be spectators for much of the case. But on Monday, discussion between Molloy and McLean made clear that that right won’t come without consequences that affect everybody involved in the case.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a mandate requiring Molloy to question all of the remaining 26 witnesses to ensure that, if they did listen to the trial before their testimony, what they heard would not affect or change their own actions on the witness stand.
Today, Molloy came prepared to question dozens of witnesses, but none were in court. McLean said that for various reasons, none of the witnesses was able to come. McLean also said that, in light of the lengthy process and the time it would consume for the victim-witnesses to be allowed in court, the Parkers were going to waive their right to be present. But, Molloy said, that wasn’t enough. The court orders had already been issued.
“I told you four years ago that if (victim-witness exclusion) was going to be an issue, raise it,” Molloy told McLean. ”Now, at the last minute, this goes up to the circuit and now we have a mandate telling me what to do. And now you’re telling me to ignore the mandate.”
Molloy said whether the Parkers waived their right or not, he had to follow the lengthy procedure outlined in the court order.
“It says the court shall. I don’t have any room — SHALL,” he said.
Molloy advised McLean that, to avoid the now-required process of questioning the remaining 26 witnesses, he would need to call the Parkers as his next witnesses. That way, their right to be in court would be renewed at the end of their testimony.
That throws a kink in the prosecution’s game plan. The Parkers were set to be the last witnesses to testify. McLean also has an obligation to file a pleading to the Ninth Circuit to withdraw the mandate, Molloy said.
“This case has been going on for too long. It’s been delayed, delayed, delayed, and I’m tired of it,” Molloy said. “This case is going to be tried, and it’s going to be tried according to procedure.”
Court will reconvene Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., completing the cross examination of EPA on-site cleanup coordinator Paul Peronard before considering the Parkers as witnesses.
– Carly Flandro (posted 11:01)
Posted: March 2nd, 2009 under News.