A jury in Washington state on Friday found that the defendants in the potentially groundbreaking “Delta 5” case, who in September 2014 blockaded an oil train in Everett and this week argued they were compelled to act over the threat of climate change, were not guilty of obstruction.
The defendants were found to be guilty of trespass, but will not face claims of financial harm to Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railway company after being cleared of the obstruction charges. They will also not face jail time.
According to Tim DeChristopher, a Seattle-based climate activist and co-founder of Peaceful Uprising, the jury said they understood the defendants were trying to raise public awareness to critical issues.
One juror reportedly told them, “Thanks for the education.”
As Common Dreams reported on Tuesday, the historic case marks the first time a U.S. judge has allowed the “necessity defense” to be argued in a trial over a climate action—but on Thursday, Snohomish County Judge Anthony Howard instructed the jury not to consider the argument, “undercutting” the defendants’ ability to defend themselves, as DeChristopher said at the time.
Still, Howard said, “Frankly the court is convinced that the defendants are far from the problem and are part of the solution to the problem of climate change,” though he added that he was “bound by legal precedent, no matter what my personal beliefs might be.”
In the end, the jury appeared to understand the activists’ goals. On Twitter, one witness to the trial described a “beautiful, emotional conversation with jurors, convicted only where they felt compelled to.”
In fact, jurors and defendants reportedly hugged after the decision came in, with one of the activists, Jackie Minchew, telling the panel, “Welcome to the movement.”
This post first appeared in Common Dreams.