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A Week of Chaos in Court

Mistrial in Olympia 15 Case

by CounterPunch News Service

The trial of 15 defendants, arrested at The Port of Olympia during eleven days of protest in May of 2006 ended in mistrial on Thursday March 29th, 2007. The group, formerly known as the "Olympia 22", was arrested on misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass. Allegedly the defendants’ crossed onto Port property while peacefully demonstrating against the use of the Port of Olympia for military shipments.

Detective Mike Hirte, along with his supervisor Jim Chamberlain of the Thurston County Sheriffs Office, interrupted proceedings and presented Prosecutor Steve Straume with case-sensitive information obtained from the defendants’ confidential email list. Detective Hirte had been present
at the Port of Olympia protests in May 2006 and at the time had identified himself as a Department Homeland Security agent. When questioned by defendants at the conclusion of trial on March 29, 2007 he refused to identify himself or give his badge number.

Testimony up to this point had included four police or security officers, two of whom were impeached by the defense during cross examination for making inconsistent or untrue statements. According to a discussion with jurors directly after the declaration of the mistrial the majority of the jury was inclined to vote not guilty due to the lack of credible and unbiased witnesses

Profiles of the jury pool were sent to an email list that included defendants, lawyers, former defendants, and other members of the legal team. The information discussed through email is protected under
attorney-client privilege. This information was inadvertently sent to about 10 former defendants.

The defense team immediately noted the error and sent an email to unauthorized recipients instructing them to disregard and to delete that email. The defense sought solutions to the situation that would not result in a mistrial, however the judge refused to hear further defense solutions, including calling in all 10 unauthorized recipients to testify under oath that they did not disseminate this information and to agree to disregard and destroy the document.

The judge found no fault upon the defense, but the prosecution was not required to disclose how they obtained the document.

This decision by Judge Dubuisson concludes four days of chaos, including mistrial requests on behalf of the defense for prosecutorial misconduct, an emotional outburst by Prosecutor Debra Eurich which resulted in the trial being held in recess for the rest of the day, all of which followed months of dismissal requests due to the destruction of a video of events recorded by Olympia Police Department Detective.

On Friday, March 30, 2007, the defendants and their supporters will be holding a demonstration outside the Thurston County courthouse at 1pm. The event will protest the unjust treatment of the defendants and the surveillance of the group by federal agents.