Friday, June 20, 2008

FPL Protest Trial Updates


On Tuesday, the judge denied the motion to consolidate all remaining defendants into one trial, and only the six that had traveled the farthest were selected to begin trial. The remaining defendants were tentatively reset for trial in mid-July.

A full 10 hours was spent selecting a jury, after which, on Wednesday the state attorney began their case. Continuing through Thursday, several officers testified, as well as an employee of Palm Beach Aggregates, the site where the protest was located. The police video of the protests and arrests, showing a chaotic scene with intimidating police dogs and peaceful protestors screaming in pain from officers' actions, was shown to the jury.

After the state rested their case, their was arguments made on both sides on whether to allow the defendants to use a "necessity defense" in the trial. A necessity defense allows that a person may have committed a crime, but did so out of necessity to prevent a greater harm to themselves or another person. Despite the state attorney's best efforts to squash it, the judge upheld the defendant's right to use this defense and present their side of the story. This could be a precedent setting case in the use of environmental necessity to legally defend direct actions.

Two expert witnesses presented thorough and objective testimony on the disastrous effects of FPL's West County Energy Center before the day ended. One witness, a hydroecologist, stated that the number one environmental stressors was disruption of hydrology, and showed that WCEC's plant is sure to do just that based on its enormous water usage in an area prone to drought, saltwater intrusion, and water mismanagement. The other expert spoke to the effects of the plant on water quality and rain pH.

The trial should wrap up tomorrow (Friday), after testimony from protest organizers and the defendants.

FPL plant risky to environment, chemist testifies
Free speech area' issue raised at protest trial

[There was also a great column by Frank Cerabino, which unfortunately has not been posted online...]

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