“The whole planet will be inside a single courtroom the day this trial begins. It’s a rare chance to explain precisely why we need to act, and act now.” — Bill McKibben
The final Valve Turner #ClimateTrial is happening in Minnesota October 8th - 11th, 2018. Sign up to stay updated.
On October 8th, Valve Turners Annette Klapstein and Emily Johnston, and supporter Ben Joldersma will stand trial in Clearwater County, Minnesota for their part in the Shut It Down climate direct action. There will they present the necessity defense, and for the first time allow a jury to consider the moral necessity and legal justification for shutting down 15% of US oil supply. Many of their supporters, particularly folks living nearby, will be there to support them in this historic trial, the first Valve Turner trial, and only the third climate trial, to be allowed to present a necessity defense.
Our legal team, which includes the Climate Defense Project and the Civil Liberties Defense Center, is preparing a full fledged necessity defense, bringing high-profile expert witnesses on climate change and social change to make the case that the Valve Turners actions are legally justifiable.
The original ruling to allow this historic defense was appealed twice by the prosecution but ultimately, the Minnesota State Supreme Court upheld the county judge's decision.
“...Judge Robert Tiffany ruled that four activists who participated in the #ShutItDown action—in which pipelines across five states were temporarily disabled, halting the flow of tar sands oil from Canada into the U.S.—may present scientists and other expert witnesses to explain the immediate threat of climate change to justify their action." Common Dreams 2017
Requirements for necessity defense in Minnesota and from Judge Tiffany, described by Valve Turners friends and lawyers on the Climate Defense project:
“... the necessity defense in Minnesota requires proof that the defendants avoided a significantly greater harm by breaking the law, there were no legal alternatives to breaking the law, that the defendant was in imminent danger of physical harm, and that there was a direct causal relationship between breaking the law and preventing the harm. The judge also noted that the defense requires an “emergency situation” and that the state’s “standard for the necessity defense is high.” The judge found that the defendants’ argument — that the climate crisis demands immediate action, that legal alternatives have failed, and that civil disobedience is capable of creating change — satisfied this test.” - Climate Defense Project, October 2017
In a Minneapolis Star-Tribune op-ed, Emily Johnston explained the importance of the decision allowing the defense...
“When the judge granted us the use of this defense, he wasn’t saying that he thought we’d proved what we did was necessary, not by any means; he was simply saying that based on what we said and the evidence before him, there was a chance that we might be able to prove this. And since it seemed possible, he believed we had the right to fully assert our defense to a jury.
I was elated. This meant that we could bring serious scientists of both physics and social change into the courtroom to talk about how our national political paralysis is putting humanity at the most profound risk it has ever faced and why it was reasonable for us to think that our actions might make a difference.”
Speaking of the upcoming trial to the Daily Beast, Bill McKibben said:
“People in our society haven't and often sat still for a few hours and thought about the implications of climate change in that way,” he says of prospective jurors. “So if they do, suddenly what seemed at first glance to them as odd and alarming [the Valve Turners’ actions] may suddenly appear to them in a very different light.”
One last McKibben quote:
“We are now fully immersed in the climate crisis, with the earth’s ice melting and its oceans turning ever more acid. Hence it is reasonable and necessary that people take nonviolent but increasingly firm action to try and address this emergency. Those who have acted will be considered great heroes by future citizens.
We know posterity will agree with Bill, we hope jurors will also, but most of all, we wish that the trial will inspire others to demand change now, in these last moments before irreversible climate chaos is assured. Please help make that so by sharing widely, starting conversations, and of course acting to withdraw social license for the destruction of all that we hold dear.