Victory for Necessity Defense!
The 2016 Valve Turners cases are largely wrapped up, but Ken Ward, a dedicated climate activist, is still appealing his case. The most recent finding of the Court of Appeals is that the lower court was wrong to exclude expert witnesses and evidence supporting his use of the necessity defense.
The Court of Appeals found that: (1) “Ward presented sufficient evidence that he reasonably believed the crimes he committed were necessary to minimize the harms that he perceived[;]” (2) “Ward’s past successes in effectuating change through civil disobedience in conjunction with the proposed expert witnesses and testimony about Ward’s beliefs were sufficient evidence to persuade a fair minded, rational juror that Ward’s beliefs were reasonable[;]” (3) “Ward…offered sufficient evidence to show that the harms of global climate change were greater than the harm of breaking into Kinder Morgan’s property[;]” and (4) that “Ward…offered sufficient evidence to create a question of fact on whether there were reasonable legal alternatives.”
Ken Wad's action was taken in concert with four other Valve Turners including two in Minnesota, Annette Klapstein and Emily Johnston, who were granted the necessity defense before their case was acquitted for lack of evidence that they had caused harm.
These precedents are useful as the Four Necessity Valve Turners prepare for their ongoing hearings and eventual trials.