Defense blames government, EPA, claims case is “pure fiction”
In a jury trial, the attorneys are allowed two opportunities to speak directly to the seated jury, during the opening and closing arguments. Closing arguments are generally limited to reviewing the evidence admitted at trial, go over jury instructions, or emphasize important points in the case which may have been missed or forgotten. It is uncommon for an opposing party to object during an opening or closing statement, though a party might do so for egregious statements, or ask the Judge for a limiting instruction.
Mr. Frongillo on the attack: “You can’t trust the government!”
Mr. Frongillo, representing defendant Robert Bettacchi, as well as the attorneys representing the remaining defendants, were constrained to 40 minutes for closing remarks. Mr. Frongillo was visibly rushed in his presentation, for which he employed two large poster boards as well as a timeline and evidence via the computer monitors. The poster boards, which he touched on briefly by asking the jury to “write these numbers down,” apparently were the exhibits entered by the government that were offset by those entered by the defense for Counts 3 & 4.
Mr. Frongillo had many harsh criticisms of the government peppered throughout his statement, ranging from alleging the government was out to “win at all cost” to accusing them of “unfair play and deception.” He also attacked the Parkers, calling them liars, and stating that the case should have stayed a civil suit between them and Grace, and that people shouldn’t go to jail based on “perjured testimony.” Mrs. Parker left the courtroom shortly after this statement. He also had some choice words for the EPA, stating that if a crime was committed, it was on their watch, and showed a public press response from the EPA to Libby in 2000 stating there was no immediate health risk requiring them to move families or stop workers.
Due to the time constraints, the opportunity for Mr. Frongillo to review each document was impossible, so he limited his argument to show Mr. Bettacchi was simply doing his job for Grace, and didnâ€™t willfully cause danger. As to the conspiracy charge, Mr. Frongillo pointed to printed material shipped with their products that warned customers of asbestos danger. Mr. Frongillo ended by asking the jury for a swift verdict that Mr. Bettacchi be found not guilty.
Mr. Krakoff blames case as a “dereliction of duty by the government!”
Mr. Krakoff, representing defendant Eschenbach , also attacked the government as trying to “pull the wool over your eyes.” He then reviewed some of the evidence in light of Mr. Eschenbach’s job as a health and safety resource for CPD. He argued that the health monitoring showed Grace that in 1977 things “had to change” and that a plan was needed. He claimed that Dr. McMahon stated an epidemiology study was not right at that time due to the latency period, but instead it was better to track workers to identify any changes, which Mr. Eschenbach did from 1977-86. He also stated there was only one meeting between the defendant and NIOSH in which Mr. Eschenbach said the deaths in Libby were due to cancer. “He was all about learning and reporting to management and disclosing to the government” according to Mr. Krakoff.
The attorney then pointed to the government and asked “In the face of clear evidence- what does McLean come up with now?” He then moved onto the conspiracy charge by attacking the government by stating it was a “flagrant abuse” to say Grace opposed the NIOSH study, instead arguing that Grace disagreed with the technique NIOSH would use. As to the element of Knowing Endangerment, Mr. Krakoff argued that there was no evidence that Mr. Eschenbach knew there was any imminent danger to the people of Libby, though he knew it posed a serious health risk to the workers. Mr. Krakoff then stated that there was “no way” Mr. Eschenbach would endanger the families because it would “Violate every principal for which he stands.” Mr. Krakoff ended his argument by literally pointing at the prosecution and accusing them of manipulating the facts, distorting the truth, violating the Constitution, and finally by stating “this entire case is wrong.”
Ms. Kubota: Jack Wolter as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?
Ms. Kubota, representing defendant Jack Wolter, concluded the defense closing arguments. Her theme was quickly apparent – “this case is fiction” she stated, after likening the government’s portrayal of her client as a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde persona, complete with a movie poster. Rather than robustly hammering away at the government, Ms. Kubota remained congenial and peppered her statement with quaint statements, though her argument in some ways tested the boundaries of what a closing statement is generally constrained to. She spoke of events that had not been uncovered during the trial, such as Mr.Wolter’s purchase of the property next to the Parkers where he at one point intended to build a home, as well as voicing feelings the defendant had, who had not taken the stand. (It should be noted that none of the defendants chose to take the stand, so any reference made by the attorneys as to their client’s feelings or thoughts was never evidenced on the record.)
Ms. Kubota claimed that Mr. Wolter was a “doer” and that was why he was copied on many of the incriminating memos from Grace. For the knowledge and intent requirement, she stated “every time I read [the instructions] I want to like take an aspirin and lay down on the couch” which drew a few smiles from the exhausted jury. She then argued that there was a lack of proof that Mr. Wolter knew it was a danger, but rather that Mr. Wolter believed it was safe. Finally she argued the government case fails because they had to prove an active involvement in his participation in the sale of the property, the only evidence of which was Mr. Wolter being cc’d on a letter from Stringer to Libby in the export plant sale. She ended by stating powerfully that “a tragedy is different thing than a crime, and the government has failed to prove Jack has committed any crime.”
Hannah Stone, posted 9:30 pm