Legal Ethics

After Blasting Prosecutors, Judge Allows Asbestos Trial to Proceed

A federal judge who blasted federal prosecutors for failing to turn over evidence about a star witness in a Montana asbestos case is allowing the trial to continue.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula refused to dismiss criminal charges against W.R. Grace, accused of exposing residents of a small mining town to asbestos and causing hundreds of deaths, the New York Times reports.

He also decided to allow the testimony of the star witness, former Grace employee Robert Locke, but he instructed jurors that Locke’s testimony should be viewed with “great skepticism,” according to the Times.

On Monday, Molloy said he couldn’t believe prosecutors put Locke on the stand. “The guy will say anything, any time, any place, as long as he thinks it’s what somebody wants to hear,” Molloy said.

Defense lawyers say prosecutors should have turned over e-mail messages showing an improperly close relationship between Locke and a government investigator. They also contend prosecutors were aware of falsehoods in Locke’s testimony.

W.R. Grace is represented by David Bernick, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, according to the Am Law Litigation Daily. Bernick recently represented Dow Chemical in a failed merger and has expertise in mass torts and products liability cases. The article notes his latest turn as a criminal defense lawyer. “Just what kind of law doesn’t David Bernick practice?” the story asks.

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