Update as Grace trial continues

5 Mar 2009 by under Events, Legal, News

The criminal trial against W.R. Grace & Co. is continuing this week at the Russell Smith federal courthouse in Missoula, Montana. The company, along with former company officials, are charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and knwoing endangerment of the Clean Air Act. The government says Grace knew its vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana, produced dangerous asbestos that put the health of its workers and the nearby townspeople at risk.

Hundreds have died in Libby as a result of exposure to asbestos, suffering a number of serious asbestos related diseases including , a serious scarring of the lungs, and , a deadly cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and/or the abdomen. In 1999 an investigation revealed widespread asbestos contamination in Libby, and the Environmental Protection Agency began an effort to clean up the town, which continues today.

The story is receiving coverage from a number of media sources. The New Yorker called this the “most significant environmental criminal trial in American history.”

Early on, Judge Donald Molloy sparked anger in Libby residents when he ruled that victim witnesses would not be allowed to sit in on the trial. Regular myMeso reader and contributor Mike Crill, a longtime resident of Libby who has lost several family members to asbestos disease and suffers from asbestosis himself, was quoted in the Montana Kaimin when he and other Libby residents staged protests outside the courthouse.

The Kaimin quotes Crill as saying, “So much for freedom of speech, huh? Especially when you’re the victims and you’re being told that you’re not the victims.”

There is a great blog site by writer Tristan Scott, who also is doing a comprehensive series on the trial for The Missoulian, that is detailing the goings on at the Grace criminal trial. The blog, Cops and Courts, which bills itself as a “criminal justice blog” even has transcripts from court proceedings.

The Missoulian also has a special site set up with lots of archival information about W.R. Grace and Libby, Montana, as well as facts about asbestos, vermiculite mining and more. The site includes videos and slideshows as well.

Photo courtesy of Cops and Courts blog.

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