Description: Criminal case against defendant who blocked railroad tracks in protest of coal and oil trains that traveled through Spokane, Washington.
State v. Taylor
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 03/30/2018 Notice of Appeal Ruling allowing necessity defense appealed by Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. 03/13/2018 Decision Download Motion to allow necessity defense and to allow expert witness testimony granted. Washington State Court Issued Written Decision Allowing Protestor to Present Necessity Defense. On March 13, 2018, a Washington District Court issued its written findings of fact and conclusions of law allowing a defendant who participated in a protest blocking a freight train to protest the transport of coal and oil to present a necessity defense at his trial. The defendant testified that he believed his actions were “acts of civil disobedience” that he believed “were necessary to avoid or minimize the imminent danger to the Earth due to climate change and the serious and imminent risk of danger to safety of Spokane citizens in the downtown area where [the rail company] transports volatile oil.” Three expert witnesses testified or submitted a declaration on the defendant’s behalf—a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment, a professor of conflict resolution who teaches courses on nonviolent civil resistance, and a “recognized international analyst in nuclear waste storage and transportation and industrial chemical use, transportation and accident prevention, and emergency planning and homeland security.” The court concluded that the defendant satisfied his burden of proof with respect to the necessity defense’s four prongs: he “believed that his actions were necessary to avoid or minimize the immediate harms of global change to the Earth”; he presented evidence that the harm sought to be avoided was greater than the harm he and other protestors created; he did not bring about the harm he sought to prevent; and he believed he had exhausted all legal alternatives and that no other reasonable alternative existed. 10/16/2017 Order Request to present necessity defense granted. A Washington district court ruled that a defendant could present a necessity defense. The defendant in the Washington case was charged with criminal trespass and obstructing and delaying a train in connection with a protest that blocked coal and oil trains. 06/26/2017 Transcript Download Defendants' expert witnesses testified.