NEWPORT CITY — Attorneys in the Lowell wind trespassing case will ask potential jurors today for their opinions about industrial-sized wind projects.
Judge Martin Maley on Thursday morning also gave permission to the defense attorney for the “Lowell Six” protesters and the deputy state’s attorney to challenge up to 13 potential jurors for their fitness to hear the case against the protesters, nearly twice the usual number.
“It would be hard to believe folks … haven’t heard about it,” Maley said at the pre-trial hearing for the Lowell Six in Orleans Superior Court — Criminal Division.
Attorneys would need to know if potential jurors had such strong opinions that they couldn’t be fair in judgment in the case, Maley said.
“It’s not practical to avoid it,” defense attorney Kristina
“It would be important to know” what jurors think, Maley said.
Six protesters, including an emergency room doctor from North Country Hospital and a Sterling College professor, pleaded not guilty to criminal trespassing after being arrested Dec. 5 on property which both developer Green Mountain Power (GMP) and project neighbors Don and Shirley Nelson claim was under their lawful possession.
The protesters are Ryan
GMP has a lease for the wind site from property owner Trip Wileman of Lowell. The Nelsons are suing Wileman and GMP over where the property line is located.
The criminal charges say that the six protesters trespassed on the GMP site in order to blockade construction vehicles from using the crane path. They stopped work for hours before being arrested.
A journalist covering the protest, The Chronicle Publisher Chris Braithwaite, has also been charged. He is pursuing a freedom of the press angle and a different track to trial.
An essential element in the case is whether the state can prove that the protesters were on property under the control of GMP. Deputy State’s Attorney Sarah Baker intends to call the surveyor who established the property line for Wileman and an official with GMP to testify about the lease that GMP has with Wileman.
Baker intends to ask the surveyor and the GMP official to testify in the criminal trial what they said at a hearing in the civil lawsuit between GMP, Wileman and the Nelsons last fall.
Neither is allowed to use civil orders about the lawsuit in the criminal trial.
Ironically, Maley is the judge that granted the civil orders involving the wind project, including a preliminary injunction to GMP last fall that created a short-term blasting safety zone on Nelson property. Maley is hearing the civil lawsuits.
He was in Newport conducting pre-trial criminal hearings because the sitting judge Robert Gerety Jr. was hearing a trial elsewhere, court officials said.
In cleaning up other pre-trial issues, Maley asked Baker to make sure to provide copies of documents to
“It’s incredibly unfair,” she said, adding that the state was playing “hide-the-ball.”
“It bugs me,” she said, that she didn’t have all the documents she needed heading into the jury draw today. She also complained that she shouldn’t have to make copies from civil case documents at a cost to her clients when she could get them from the state.
Baker said it was an error that documents were not sent as requested to
Maley said depositions would force a delay in the case, and that
In the end [sic]
Maley said he wanted all the documents produced and shared within a week.
The situation is unusual because misdemeanor cases seldom go to trial and there are different rules for how depositions of potential trial witnesses are handled, Maley said.
However, the cases are also unusual because they involve the Lowell wind project, he said.
“These cases are really high profile. I understand.”