After ten hours of almost non-stop closing arguments Wednesday, the W.R. Grace criminal case has gone to the jury.
Looking around the courtroom, most lawyers, investigators, court watchers and reporters had puzzled expressions on their faces – somewhat like long distance runners when the race is over. What now?
Five U.S. marshals and bailiffs were ordered to the front of the courtroom, raised their right hands and swore to keep the jury sequestered, and moments later they ushered their new charges out of courtroom two and into seclusion somewhere.
There is nothing more the defense or prosecution can do. They’ve all taken their best shots, and now it is truly in the hands of the jury.
Never to step out of character, Grace’s top lawyer David Bernick, barely waited for the door to close behind the last juror before he was on his feet demanding that Molloy dismiss the charges, issue new instructions to the jury, hang the prosecutor or DO SOMETHING.
He was outraged at statements Asst. U.S, Attorney Kris McLean made during his rebuttal to the closing arguments.
Like a father trying to calm errant teenagers Molloy twice reminded defense lawyers that there was still a “Rule 29” motion pending. The motion would allow the judge to dismiss the charges after the jury issues its verdict.
With the speed of a college dorm emptying in summer, paralegals or other staff dressed in jeans and sneakers rushed in and quickly began disassembling the maze of computers, files, piles of documents and Bernick’s huge white boards that were the defense team’s courtroom fort for the past 10 weeks.
By the time the room was cleared there were handshakes and hugs for all.
The closing argument offered few surprises, with the lawyers on both side performing as expected. Paul Peronard and others from the EPA sat in the rows in front of me, and it was painful to see the muscles in their necks become taunt and the white knuckles as they listened to statements they knew were outright lies or distortions being offered as gospel.
The courtroom was packed to the point of being uncomfortable and became hot enough to warrant judicial notice when Molloy mentioned that the building’s air conditioner shuts off at six.
The jury paid attention — sometimes more than others in the courtroom. Most were making notes up until the end. One juror, who always laughs at Bernick’s antics, was enjoying himself fully as the comedic lawyer really hammed it up in his closing with wild gestures and his weird emphatic pronunciation of words.
I’m not going to go into the details of the arguments both sides made. Those who have been following this blog far too long, can figure it out. All has been heard before.
However, for those who demand the details, I’m providing links to two really well done and thorough reports by two of the skilled gang from the University of Montana who have been covering this exercise in justice gavel to gavel.
Journalist Laura L. Lundquist’s reports on the prosecution’s closing:
Law student Josh Benham report on what the defense did.