Description: Prosecution of climate activist who entered a pipeline facility and attempted to shut off pipeline.
State v. Zepeda
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 11/16/2020 Opinion Download Convictions upheld. Washington Appellate Court Upheld Convictions of Activist Who Presented Necessity Defense. The Washington Court of Appeals affirmed a guilty verdict against a climate activist who cut a chain to enter a pipeline facility and attempted to cut a bolt that secured a shutoff valve on the pipeline, which carried tar sands oil from Canada. The activist relied on a necessity defense based on the “dire consequences of climate change”; he testified on his own behalf and also introduced testimony of climate, public policy, and civil disobedience experts. The jury found him guilty on counts of second-degree burglary, attempted criminal sabotage, and malicious mischief. On his appeal of the attempted criminal sabotage and malicious mischief convictions, the Court of Appeals rejected his argument that he had been deprived of his right to unanimous jury. The court said the State did not have to elect whether to rely for a conviction on the cutting of the chain or on the attempt to cut the bolt because the two acts constituted a “continuing course of conduct.” The appellate court also found that even if the trial court erred, the error was harmless because the State proved both acts beyond a reasonable doubt.