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Appeals Court Delays Pepper Spray Trial
by No Pepper Spray (nopepperspray-subscribe [at]
Sunday May 11th, 2003 11:35 PM
The federal Court of Appeals issued a stay order May 8 delaying the Headwaters vs.Humboldt pepper spray trial until our emergency appeal is decided.
Appeals court stay order delays Q-tip pepper spray Eureka trial from starting May 12!

Late Thursday, May 8, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay order delaying our second trial until the appeals court decides our emergency appeal. The case was assigned to the same three-judge appellate panel which handled our previous appeal and strongly reversed Judge Walker's decisions dismissing our case and granting immunity to the sheriff and his chief deputy.

The appeals court stay order instructs the defendants in our suit (Humboldt County, City of Eureka, Sheriff Gary Philp and ex-Sheriff Dennis Lewis) to file a response to our petition for writ of mandamus by May 20. We plaintiffs then have until June 2 to file a reply to their response. We think the appellate panel will make a decision sometime in June.

Attorney Ben Rosenfeld, who prepared the emergency appeal, had this reaction: "We are grateful the court has taken our appeal seriously because it IS serious. We were ready to go to trial on May 12 as scheduled, but we want it to be a fair trial with an unbiased judge and jury, and this is the way that can happen. Of course, there has been no decision yet on our petition to hold the trial in San Francisco and assign a different judge. But the 9th Circuit takes our arguments seriously enough to delay the trial until it has time to consider them carefully. We are hopeful that they will ultimately make the right decision."

Plaintiff Spring Lundberg commented on KMUD radio (Garberville/Redway CA) news this evening: "I love Humboldt County, I love the forests here, and I love the people. I think it's unfortunate that a multinational corporation is ripping us apart. I believe in bridging the gap between workers and forest defenders, and I hope that can happen and heal our community. I do love Humboldt County, but I believe that our pepper spray trial needs an international forum, and that will happen if we get a trial in San Francisco. And I would just add that this case should no more be tried in Eureka than a civil rights trial in 1965 should be moved to Selma, Alabama."

This case arose from the Humboldt County Sheriff's 1997 use of pepper spray applied to the eyes with Q-tips or sprayed from inches away to try to coerce nonviolent Headwaters Forest protesters into unlocking their arms from a human chain. Nine activists filed a federal civil rights suit, and after a hung jury in a 1998 San Francisco trial the judge dismissed the case rather than hold a new trial. The appeals court reversed the judge's dismissal, granting a new trial, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed. When the case was returned to the original trial judge, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, he decided to hold the new trial in Humboldt County's seat, Eureka, long a hotbed of controversy over logging protests against Pacific Lumber Company.

The political turmoil in Humboldt is particularly hot right now because Humboldt County's new District Attorney recently filed a $250-million fraud suit against Pacific Lumber, and the company has responded by instigating a recall campaign against the DA. The company has also been running a controversial ad campaign on TV, radio and in full-page newspaper ads portraying local environmental activists as "eco-terrorists" threatening timber workers and their families. Earth First! forest activists in the region have for over a decade rejected the use of tree-spiking and equipment sabotage, instead using civil disobedience tactics like tree-sitting and blockading logging roads, often using human chains in which activists lock their arms together inside metal tubes designed to make it more difficult to remove them.

Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
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Pepper Spray Still WrongFrom MarylandSunday Nov 9th, 2003 10:57 AM
you losep.l. lostWednesday May 21st, 2003 3:11 PM
Extortionq-tipSaturday May 17th, 2003 1:13 PM
private propertydo you want it allFriday May 16th, 2003 3:55 PM
One Sided BSWildcardThursday May 15th, 2003 5:40 PM
BS World ViewIndigo BuntingWednesday May 14th, 2003 11:08 PM
Indigo BuntingSame old B.S.Wednesday May 14th, 2003 10:23 PM
Dreaming of BlessingsMarian the LibrarianWednesday May 14th, 2003 8:10 PM
ho ho hoIndigo BuntingTuesday May 13th, 2003 10:17 PM
Why Cut if Can't Mill revisitedSame old B.S.Tuesday May 13th, 2003 8:15 PM

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