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W.R. Grace acquittals: The power of a linear storyline



A reporter's account of the jury deliberations in the W.R. Grace asbestos trial noted the complicated issue of timing. From the Cops and Courts blog of The Missoulian:

The jury of six men and six women received the criminal case Wednesday evening and reached their verdicts Friday morning. They faced the onerous task of interpreting evidence and testimony that was presented over the course of 35 days, as well as determining whether the alleged crimes conduct occurred within an applicable time frame. The criminal provision to the Clean Air Act, for example, wasn't enacted until 1990, the same year the Libby mine ceased operations.

We can well imagine a debate around the jury room centered on this question: "How could they have conspired to violate a law that hadn't been written yet?"

More powerfully persuasive in a mens rea sort of way might have been this witness:

The defense then called Mike McCaig to the stand, son of former Grace manager and defendant in this case, William McCaig. Mike McCaig is a computer programmer from Simpsonville, S.C. He grew up in Libby and graduated from Libby High School in 1989.

Through Mike McCaig's testimony, the defense showed that William McCaig brought his family up to the mine, used mine products in the family garden and wouldn't have done so had he known the health risk of breathing dust from the contaminated vermiculite.

Juror A asks, "If they knew it was dangerous, they never would have let their kids hang around the mine, would they?" Juror B responds. "Yes, that's hard to imagine."

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy
rmangual@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.