andrew schneider investigates

April 22, 2009

So much for judicial decorum. If there were a statue of Lady Justice in Judge Donald Molloy’s courtroom, she would need earplugs along with her blindfold.

Filed under: Asbestos,Government & corporate wrong-doing,W.R. Grace,Worker Safety — Andrew Schneider @ 07:14

The W.R. Grace criminal trial has been recessed for a week and the prosecution has not rested its case. Asst. U.S. Attorney Kris McLean said he had called his last witnesses and was expected to rest it’s case Tuesday after dickering with the judge to get dozens of documents introduced into evidence.

That didn’t happen.

According to people sitting in the courtroom and watching Tuesday’s debacle, it was ugly, especially the afternoon session. (I missed the proceedings because I headed back to Seattle.)

I read everything the University of Montana “Grace Case” bloggers and tweeters wrote and talked to two lawyers, who observed what one called “a demonstration in unprofessionalism.”

The other lawyer, who said he was “a long-time fan” of Judge Donald Molloy, said the prosecution was “brutalized,” especially McLean, who was “personally attacked” not just by Grace, but by the judge.
Asked the first lawyer: “Why slap him around when the jurors and most of the court-watchers were gone? There was nothing at all professional about it. Not a damn thing.”

The defense argued fervently that the documents McLean wanted to introduce were prejudicial and had no probative merit.

University of Montana Law School blogger Katy Furlong wrote that some of the evidence Grace does not want the jury to see includes company memos written by Grace’s mejustice-statue1dical director that:
    Discussed a 27-year-old employee who had only worked in the mine’s garage but whose lungs showed signs of asbestos disease on X-rays.
    Warned that the results of a health study would become public knowledge regardless of confidentiality agreements, and Grace should be prepared to deal with the consequences.
    Said that Grace’s “major problem is respiratory cancer. This is no surprise.” The memo was distributed to most of the other defendants in the indictments.

UM journalism student blogger Nate Hegyi wrote about the degree of “mean-spiritedness” toward McLean.

At one point, Hegyi reported, Grace’s lead lawyer, David Bernick, openly mocked the prosecutor’s slow drawl and delivery. And at another point, members of the defense laughed when McLean said he couldn’t remember reading over one of the government’s documents, the student wrote.

Hegyi also noted Molloy’s displeasure with McLean: ‘ “It is mind boggling to me that a case of this magnitude would be brought by the United States and that McLean would bring documents that he’s never even seen before,” Molloy said before pounding his gavel and calling for evening recess.”‘

Court is set to resume next Monday.

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