A jury decision this summer awarding $4.4 million to Earth First! activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney is now in the hands of a U.S. District Judge.
Judge Claudia Wilken must decide the merits of a post–trial motion filed by attorneys for six Oakland Police Officers and FBI agents found liable for violating the civil rights of the two activists. There is no time table for Wilken to make a ruling.
“There are fairly significant issues for her to address,” said Bill Simmons, an Oakland City Attorney who is representing the Oakland police officers in the case.
The motion asks Wilken to consider either a new trial, a reduction in damages awarded to the plaintiffs, or a reversal of a portion of the jury’s verdict.
Simmons and his fellow defense attorneys argue that the jury’s decision suffered from several inconsistencies, that the evidence it was based on was insufficient and that some of the evidence was improperly admitted.
Two weeks ago Wilken held a 90–minute hearing on the motion. Most of Wilken’s questions were directed at the attorneys for the police and FBI, said Alicia Littletree, an employee at the Law Office of Dennis Cunningham, which represents Bari and Cherney.
The two environmental activists were injured in 1990 when a bomb exploded inside their car.
Oakland police immediately arrested them in connection with blast, insisting that they had accidentally detonated the bomb, which police said was constructed for use during an Earth First! operation.
Prosecutors, though, declined to charge Bari and Cherney for the bomb blast.
In 1991, the activists filed suit, claiming that Oakland Police and the FBI falsely arrested them and searched their homes to interfere with their political agenda.
Simmons said he expected that the case will be heading to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals no matter how Judge Wilken rules.