W.R. Grace Trial Update: Appeals Court Overturns Judge Molloy’s Order Barring Asbestos Victims From Courtroom

Judge Malloy Claimed the People of Libby Were Not Crime Victims

LIBBY, MT - February 27, 2009 - The 9th U.S. Court of Appeal overturned Judge Molloy's order barring, from the W.R. Grace criminal trial, the asbestos victims who will be used as witnesses by the prosecution. A three judge panel ruled that the district court erred in its finding that the 34 victim-witnesses identified by the United States as prospective witnesses do not meet the meaning of 'crime victim' as set forth in the Crime Victims' Rights Act. The Appellate Court's ruling removes the victim-witness exclusion, allowing prospective witnesses to attend the trial.

In the original order, Molloy stated, "as the Congress has defined the term 'crime victim,' there are no crime victims identifiable in this case." The witness-sequestrian rule, the basis of Molloy's decision, is designed to prevent witnesses from being influenced by the testimony of preceding witnesses. The Appeals Court disagreed on Molloy's application of the rule.

Chemical conglomerate W.R. Grace and five former executives are accused of knowingly endangering the people of Libby, MT and the dangers posed by the asbestos inherent in their vermiculite mining operation on Zonolite Mountain. Libby is listed as an EPA Superfund site and it is estimated that 1,200 people in and around Libby have suffered from asbestos diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure from W.R. Grace's vermiculite mine.

Recent trial coverage on Asbestos Network:

  • "You can't mine completely clean vermiculite.... It's impossible."
  • W.R. Grace Aware of Tremolite Asbestos Dangers from Libby Mine
  • W.R. Grace Knowingly Sold Land Covered in Asbestos-Laden Vermiculite
  • Libby Residents Suffered From Asbestos Mine, W.R. Grace Asbestos Trial
  • Effect of W.R. Grace Criminal Asbestos Trial on Asbestos Trust