May 11, 2009 — Reactions
MISSOULA (May 18, 2009) – Not guilty.
To Danielle Bundrock, a University of Montana senior, the verdicts sounded a lot like, “No justice.”
The pain at the center of the W.R Grace trial is fresh for her. Her step-grandpa died on Easter in Libby from lung cancer due to asbestos exposure. Another 13 members of her family are diagnosed with asbestos-related disease. None of them worked at the vermiculite mine at the center of allegations of corporate wrongdoing.
“This is really disappointing,” said Bundrock when she heard that W.R Grace and three of its executives had been acquitted on May 9 of all eight criminal charges filed against them. The charges included conspiracy, Clean Air Act violations, and obstruction of justice. “It would have been a lot better if I had heard it went the other way. Someone has to be to blame for all the hurt that has happened to the people of Libby.” Read more »
LIBBY (May 10, 2009) — The environmental criminal inquiry into the most sprawling industrial disaster in U.S. history ended in the failed prosecution of a company charged with poisoning a small Montana town. Some residents of the town say no judge’s gavel can close their case, that death may be the only end to their trial. Justice on earth, they say, may be as simple as help paying the medical bills.
Chemical giant W.R. Grace & Co. was indicted in 2005 on charges that the company and several former executives knowingly endangering the residents of Libby, Mont., for conspiring to keep the dangers of its mining operations secret and then obstructing EPA investigation into the situation. The trial began on Feb. 19, 2009.
The verdict came down at noon on Friday, May 8. After one full day of deliberation, the jury acquitted all defendants of all charges. As the victorious defense teams left Montana for homes in Chicago and Boston, trial coverage faded from the news, but the three-month trial and its dramatic conclusion reverberated through the town of Libby. Read more »
After a three-month trial, jurors deliberated for just one full day before acquitting W.R. Grace Co. and three of its executives Friday of all criminal charges.
The company and executives were accused of knowingly exposing residents and mine workers to toxic asbestos, a byproduct of the company’s vermiculite mine in Libby, Mont.
In closing the trial, Judge Donald Molloy thanked the jurors for their service, and said that at 35 days the trial was the longest he has overseen.
“I want to thank the jury,” Molloy said. “This is truly a reflection of how we are supposed to govern ourselves – it is up to the people.”
Federal studies blame asbestos from the mine operations for Libby’s high rates of asbestosis and lung cancer. Deaths in Libby from asbestosis have been found to be 40 to 80 times higher than expected and deaths from lung cancer 20 to 30 percent higher.
Acknowledging the town’s troubled past, attorneys for the defense described for the jury a company that tried to improve conditions in Libby once it became aware a danger existed. The government, according to David Bernick, lead attorney for W.R. Grace, pursued a case based on politics and emotions rather than law.
“The jury saw through the haze of 10 years of politics and did the right thing” Bernick said.
The verdict stunned many with a personal interest in the case. Read more »