600+ Water Protectors Facing Criminal Charges Unlikely to Receive Fair Trials
On Jan. 27, attorneys representing the first 10 water protectors arrested in actions against the Dakota Access Pipeline in early August 2016 renewed their motion for a change of venue, on grounds that the state did not adequately respond to the motion and is not taking basic steps to assess bias among jurors.
Here's How You Can Help Stop the #DakotaAccessPipeline https://t.co/Tbeo9s1tm8 @IENearth @HonorTheEarth @RobertKennedyJr @MarkRuffalo @350— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1485616460.0
The requested change of venue would move the trials to a different county, outside the reach of negative media coverage and hostile community perception. The motion was filed on Jan. 19 and denied by North Dakota District Judge Cynthia Feland on Jan. 24, who claimed that "a fair and impartial jury has already been impaneled and seated" and that "it would be nonsensical for the court to say it cannot be done."
The motion renewal filed Friday by North Dakota attorney Chad Nodland stated:
"It appears that the state's strategy is to simply delay discovery, charge people based on collective action and not individual acts which can be established by admissible evidence, and then hope for a conviction from a jury overwhelmingly biased towards law enforcement and the state."
A randomized survey conducted by the National Jury Project concluded it is highly likely that the more than 600 water protectors facing criminal charges in the coming months will not receive fair trials from petit jurors impaneled in Morton and Burleigh Counties. The survey found that 77 percent of the juror-eligible population in Morton County and 85 percent of the juror-eligible population in Burleigh County had already decided the defendants were guilty.
A substantial number of of the surveyed population have connections to law enforcement, the oil industry, landowners and others who have been affected by the protests.
Many respondents made statements indicating that they perceive protesters as a threat to community safety and described the water protectors as "eco terrorists," "criminals" and "idiots" who "hopefully all freeze to death."
5 Disturbing #DAPL Developments You Need 2 Know https://t.co/9zNwAmurHz @IENearth @HonorTheEarth @RobertKennedyJr @billmckibben @MarkRuffalo— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1484932160.0
North Dakota State's Attorney Ladd Erickson has made incendiary verbal and written comments about DAPL defendants that have been aired in local media markets, characterizing water protectors as "people from around the world [who have] come to intentionally commit crimes for political purposes and have North Dakota taxpayers pick up the tab."
The actions of county and city authorities have also contributed to an atmosphere of prejudice and fear in the general public. There have been "reverse 911" calls to warn residents to avoid certain areas Morton County deemed "unsafe" due to prayer circles and demonstrations. Elected officials called for economic boycotts and advised local businesses to deny service to those they suspect connected with the Standing Rock encampments. North Dakota GOP lawmakers also introduced bills to crack down on demonstrators by restricting the use of face masks and protecting drivers from liability if they injure or kill a pedestrian obstructing traffic on a public road or highway.
#NorthDakota Bill Would Protect Motorists Who 'Unintentionally Cause Injury or Death' to Protesters https://t.co/sL4LMxC2N6 @NRDC @350— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1484589627.0
Diane Wiley, president of the National Jury Project Midwest, said that "most juror-eligible residents … have prejudged or at a minimum are negatively predisposed against the protestor defendants" and that "it is next to impossible to expect that jurors holding these attitudes and predispositions, and living in such an atmosphere, can impartially weigh the evidence in the cases." In Wiley's 43 years of jury pool research, this is the only time she has found "100 percent recognition of the issues involved in a court case."
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
- San Antonio, Texas Unveils Largest Highway Crossing for Wildlife in ... ›
- Wildlife Crossings a Huge Success - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- Climate Change Will Be Sudden and Cataclysmic Unless We Act Now ›
- There's a Heatwave at the Arctic 'Doomsday Vault' - EcoWatch ›
- Marine Heatwaves Destroy Ocean Ecosystems Like Wildfires ... ›
By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
- Biden Reaffirms Commitment to Rejoining Paris Agreement ... ›
- Biden Likely Plans to Cancel Keystone XL Pipeline on Day One ... ›
- Joe Biden Appoints Climate Crisis Team - EcoWatch ›