Outside court, it had been eerily silent during the Briana Waters trial. No courthouse protests, no action in the streets, not even flyers at The Evergreen State College. Her supporters had been circumspect. Then, this morning, it was all over the news. "Street of Dreams" arson. ELF.
Waters has been on trial in Tacoma for a role in the 2001 arson at the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture, attributed to Earth Liberation Front. As if scripted, her defense team – Oakland, Calif., attorney Robert Bloom and Seattle's Neil Fox – appeared in U.S. District Court by mid-morning to move for a mistrial due to the publicity of the fires this morning in Woodinville, Wash. A photo of a scratchy, red-spray-painted message was on every newspaper Web site from Bellingham to New York by 11 a.m.: "Built Green? Nope Black! McMansions & RCDs [rural cluster districts] r not green. ELF."
It would have been difficult to not know about the fires. The publicity, the attorneys asserted, would prejudice the jury, which is not sequestered. Not surprisingly, Judge Franklin Burgess denied the motion. However, it is surprising that he has not issued instructions to the jury to ignore today's events as they continue in their deliberations.
If Waters is convicted, this ruling might become an issue in her appeal. It may be a long time before we know if ELF is truly responsible and if it was a deliberate attempt to affect the outcome of the Waters trial. But it should be within days that the jury returns with its verdict.