Description: Prosecution of protesters who blocked a rail yard in Washington state to draw attention to climate change and the risks of coal and oil trains.
State v. Brockway
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 05/29/2018 Opinion Download Convictions affirmed. Washington Appellate Court Upheld Convictions of Protestors, Affirmed Trial Court’s Decision Not to Instruct Jury on Necessity Defense. The Washington Court of Appeals affirmed the trespass convictions of four protestors who entered a rail yard in Everett, Washington, and blocked tracks to protest coal and oil trains and raise awareness of rail safety and climate change. The appellate court found that the trial court had not abused its discretion when it denied the defendants’ request for a jury instruction on the necessity defense. The appellate court agreed that the defendants had failed to offer sufficient evidence for the fourth element of the necessity defense requiring that no reasonable legal alternatives existed. The appellate court also disagreed with the defendants’ argument that their right to present a defense was violated by the trial judge allowing them to present evidence for the necessity defense but refusing to instruct the jury on the defense. The appellate court rejected, however, the State’s argument that a necessity defense was never available in a civil disobedience context.
Washington v. Brockway
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 01/15/2016 Not Available Defendants convicted on trespass charges. Washington State Court Rejected Climate Protesters’ Necessity Defense After Allowing Them to Present Evidence in Support of It. Five individuals who blocked a rail yard in Washington state to draw attention to climate change and the risks of coal and oil trains were convicted of trespass in Washington state court on January 15, 2016. Before the trial, the judge in Snohomish County District Court initially dismissed the protesters’ necessity defense—in which the individuals argued that civil disobedience was necessary to address climate change and harms caused by oil trains. On reconsideration, however, the judge allowed the defense to present testimony in support of the necessity defense at the trial. The defense relied on the testimony of a climate scientist, a physician, a rail-safety specialist, an environmental policy researcher, and a former rail company employee. Ultimately, the judge directed the jury to disregard the testimony, saying that the defendants had not shown that they had exhausted legal means of advocating for changes in climate change and rail safety policies. The judge said from the bench that the defendants were “tireless advocates whom we need in this society to prevent the kind of catastrophic effects that we see coming and our politicians are ineffectually addressing.” The defendants were not convicted on charges of obstructing or trying to delay trains. 01/06/2016 Motion Download Motion filed for reconsideration of order precluding expert testimony. 01/06/2016 Order Download Defendants' motion to allow affirmative defense of necessity denied and expert witness testimony dismissed.