Friday, March 4, 2011

An Empty Victory

Several months ago, natural gas and oil companies were bidding on parcels of land they wanted to drill on.  One Tim DeChristopher made bids on several such parcels, because he didn't want these companies to get to these natural resources, in an attempt to "save the planet".  He had no intention to pay for the land though, and thus, such activity is illegal.

I, for one, have a strong desire to obtain our own resources, from our own land.  Indeed, the claim that we shouldn't is the height of arrogance and hypocrisy:  we need these resources, and if we seek international sources for them, but prevent obtained these resources on our own land, we're essentially telling the world "We're going to exploit your land, and preserve our land, because our land is better than yours!"  If you add the fact that importing oil and natural gas from around the world increases the carbon footprint for these resources, we're only adding insult to injury.

Thus, when DeChristopher was found guilty yesterday, I took glee that justice was served.  At least, I did, until I learned of this:
"We were limited by the defense we wanted to put on," Yengich [DeChristopher's lawyer] said. "That was an impediment."
DeChristopher had sought to center his case on the so-called necessity defense, which hinges on the legal premise that he chose the lesser of two evils and had to act illegally to right a wrong.
If that defense had been allowed, DeChristopher could have summoned the breadth of his motivations for acting regarding climate change and environmental impacts caused by oil and gas drilling.
[Judge] Benson rejected that, however, saying there were other lawful avenues available for DeChristopher to choose, rather than resort to breaking the law.
DeChristopher wanted to make silly pleas to the jury.  He wanted to say "I did it for the environment!  Think of the children!  The world is going to fry because of global warming, and I did my small part to stop it!" but the Judge forbade it.

How the heck did we come to the point that a judge can tell what defense a defendant can use?

If DeChristopher really wanted to bring up environmental concerns, let him.  Then the prosecution could bring in their witnesses to explain how drilling has minimum impact on the environment, and that importing oil has its own tolls on the environment that can be avoided by buying locally.  If, in the end, the jury decides to acquit, then so what?  DeChristopher made his case as best he could, and the jury accepted it.

If DeChristopher really wanted to do an "aliens suggested it" defense, let him!  If DeChristopher got on the stand, and said "Aliens visited me while I was fishing, and they told me how fun it is to make bids on objects in an auction when you can afford them--of course, on their planet, they go to jail for such things, but hey, you only live once, so I thought 'Why not?'", let the jury decide if this is sufficient reason to find him "Not guilty".

By forbidding what DeChristopher and perhaps his lawyer defense, I cannot accept the conclusions of the trial without having lingering doubts about the verdict.  Such power, given to a judge, provides too much potential for abuse.  Hence,  at a minimum, we should declare this a mistrial.  If DeChristopher was pardoned today, or acquitted, I would have no objections, although I would be annoyed by the injustice done, because of the judge's interference.

No comments:

Post a Comment