Calling for Justice for Libby Montana. Calling on MT AG Steve Bullock.

by jhwygirl

Montana Women For – a fabulous organization out there Livingston/Bozeman way, advocating for peace, justice and equality – has a heart wrenching piece up regarding the W.R. Grace verdict from Andrea Peacock, author of Libby, Montana: Asbestos and the Deadly Silence of an American Corporation .

From the piece:

It never was Gayla Benefield or Norita or Les Skramstad’s job to get justice for Libby. It was the job of the EPA and Department of Justice; it was the duty of Montana’s media; and it remains the responsibility of the Montana Attorney General.

Andrea is correct. I’m no lawyer – nor do I play one on the intertubes – but Montana can not allow W.R. Grace to get away with mass murder. If there is a law to be had – and as far as I know there is no statute of limitations on murder – then Bullock needs to take on this task. For Libby. For Montana. This can not and should not happen again. Standing by and allowing the EPA and Malloy to serve up this final bitter pill as the end-all to the asbestos poisoning of Montana citizens can not be allowed.

If there’s no more, then Bullock needs to tell us why.

You must read No Justice for Libby Montana. Call Attorney General Steve Bullock. And then take the appropriate action.

  1. Bob Gentry

    The square peg didn’t fit in the round hole, and there was little chance for it when you give the perps 18 years to cover their asses, with a 5 year statute of limitations, and the USEPA ignoring the worst environment tragedy in US history for years, finally getting there in 1999 (remember it was Judy Martz, of all people, who used the “silver bullet” to get federal funds to start the so-called cleanup that the Bush admin cut back in every way they possibly could Can’t prosecute murder under the Clean Air Act. Why do it, when there are other statutes that fit the bill just fine? Homicide stands front and center.

    When I wrote this thing,, I held out some small hope that the jury would exercise its extraordinary power and convict on some basis, even if it was just throwing a bone to the people of Libby. Juries are never told how much authority they actually have.

    There have been small flashes of juries exercising this power. But I have a strong feeling that Judge Molloy would have overturned the verdict if they would have come back with a guilty verdict (remember the motions to dismiss at the end of the prosecution’s case?). JNOV – judgment notwithstanding the verdict…

    If someone stands at the top of a cliff, and gets paid to throw a large stone off the cliff, fully knowing that hundreds or people stand on the ground below, that’s second degree murder, at the very least. Intentional homicide. If you shoot into a house, not intending to kill someone, and someone gets killed, that’s felony murder. If you kill someone while robbing a bank, but were robbing the bank to get money, not kill someone, that’s felony murder. Under MT law that qualifies you for the big sleep (I’m not a fan of capital punishment, but that’s a different issue).

    That’s one question to ask the AG. When Grace repeatedly threw these stones off the cliff above Libby, gathering their massive profits from the ground and the lungs of the people of Libby, did they know 8,000 people were standing there at the base? Seems like that conclusion is inescapable. The stones are still falling. And there’s no statute of limitations on homicide.

    • Bob – Thanks so very much for adding your comment.

      Wow. So homicide, you think, is viable? All the more reason to pile some focus on Bullock.

  2. Bob Gentry

    Viable… from a law school final exam analysis perspective of whether this fact pattern fits the elements of MCA 45-5-102 (deliberate homicide), MT’s first degree and felony murder law (death penalty); or MCA 45-5-103 (mitigated deliberate homicide), MT’s second degree/gross negligence murder statute; or MCA 45-5-104 (negligent homicide), MT’s “manslaughter” statute.

    There is evidence that Grace personnel knew of the lethality of this material during the time that they were operating the mine, right? At that point in time, they had a choice. Stop production at the mine immediately, and do what was necessary to prevent further harm while addressing the damage already caused by past actions when they didn’t know it was having lethal effects.

    Grace, as a corporation, has no soul or ethical component by law (while a “person” under the law, the threat of jail or worse criminal sanctions have no effect on corporate “behavior”), but presumably the individual Grace executives in the know did. They were the ones with the choice.

    Any act or omission in furtherance of the business of the mine from the point at which an individuals knows their actions will result in death could provide evidence that the person “knowingly,” or at the very least “negligently” caused the death of another human being.

    But the same argument can be made against many corporate behaviors (tobacco industry advertising to children and increasing nicotine content to addict users “knowing” that tobacco use causes death, or even coal-fired energy producers who “know” that the waste product from their activities results in human mortality).

    We like to labor under the misconception that human life is sacred, that a dollar amount cannot be attributed to our lives, that we are invaluable. But human death is an externalized cost of corporate profit making (and government action in furtherance of that activity), and life is alarmingly cheap, even here in the US. What has become sacred is the corporate form and the right to make profit, no matter the cost.

    If Grace activity in Libby is not egregious enough to inspire a criminal homicide prosecution in the US against corporate officials, I can’t imagine one that would. But I fear that all we have to do is wait a little longer, and something worse will show up.

    India has been trying to prosecute Warren Anderson (former CEO of Union Carbide) and eight other UC executives for homicide since 1984 with no help (and outright interference) from US govt and courts in that effort. Union Carbide negligently (at the very least) killed 10,000 people in 72 hours, 25,000 more have died from related disease, and at least half a million people were exposed to the toxic gas.

    If such a prosecution were to take place, it would signal a sea change in US law toward corporate responsibility. It would be huge, and all the money in America would be lined up against it, as it was in the single past attempt to do this. A prosecutor brought reckless homicide charges under Indiana criminal law statutes against Ford Motor Corp. executives for the design of the Pinto (everybody probably remembers those rolling bombs) in 1980. Not guilty.

    So my thoughts on the academic question of whether the Libby pattern fits under MT’s criminal homicide laws? From what I know of the fact history, there is a strong argument that it does. In the absence of very specific legislation making corporate officials criminally responsible for homicide, in the absence of a grass-roots surge of outrage calling for this, and in the presence of the current balance of money and power in the US, it won’t happen.

    Leaving affected individuals with the options of despair and resignation or renewed vigorous public education, debate, and political pressure seeking meaningful change and justice. From what I have read of Gayla Benefield and others who have carried this terrible burden, I’m guessing they will choose the latter.

    • Imagine how differently corporations would behave if a charge of homicide were to stick to them.

      It would change the world. It would be that much of an impact.

      Obama should hand Union Carbide over to India. Let’s see how that goes, too.

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