Re-hearing Scheduled in W.R. Grace Trial

An appellate court announced on Monday that there would be a re-hearing concerning an earlier decision to overturn a Missoula judge’s order barring some government witnesses from testifying in the criminal trial against W.R. Grace & Co.

According to an article in the Missoulian, a larger panel of 15 judges will be on hand to determine whether a smaller panel of three appellate judges erred in its findings. In July, the group of senior judges said “Molloy (the Missoula judge) exceeded his authority by issuing the pretrial orders,” and they, in turn, affirmed the appeals of federal prosecutors who argued Molloy’s decision hindered their efforts to bring Grace to trial, which was originally scheduled to begin in September 2006.

Grace’s lawyers have also announced that they will seek a re-hearing on six separate decisions also made by Molloy, which prosecutors say would have “changed the evidentiary landscape” at trial. In September, a different three-judge panel had reversed and/or revised those decisions.

Currently, the death rate from asbestos-related diseases among those who lived near or worked at Libby, Montana’s W.R. Grace vermiculite mine is forty times higher than the national average. Since the trial’s postponement, one government witness has died as did activist Les Skramstad, the man who was responsible for bringing the situation to the public eye.

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