February 19, 2009 in City

W.R. Grace denied change of trial venue

Len Iwanski Associated Press
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University of Montana student bloggers cover the trial: Grace Case

MISSOULA – On the eve of jury selection in the federal criminal trial against W.R. Grace & Co., the judge Wednesday denied a request by defendants to file a motion for change of venue.

The Grace defendants filed a motion Tuesday asking U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy’s permission to file a request to move the trial out of Missoula. The motion apparently was sparked by a series of articles in the Missoulian newspaper this week about the upcoming trial.

“Now on the eve of jury selection, inflammatory pretrial publicity has saturated the community in which the court intends to conduct the trial in this case, jeopardizing the defendants’ Fifth and Sixth Amendment right to trial by an impartial jury and necessitating a change of venue,” defendants said in their motion Tuesday.

Molloy on Wednesday denied the request “subject to renewal in the event that a fair and impartial jury cannot be seated.” The trial is to begin with jury selection today.

The case involves public exposure to asbestos that caused hundreds of deaths and illnesses in the Libby area, where Grace used to operate a vermiculite mine.

Testimony in the Grace trial is expected to begin Monday.

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