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Re: The verdict is in!



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Headline in Rapid City Journal - VERDICT VICTORY FOR FOSSIL HUNTERS
(March 15, 1995)

Quote from defense attorney Pat Duffy:   
"I'm so pleased I can't even begin to describe it."

The celebration is somewhat tempered by convictions on 8 of the 149 
felony counts. These are mostly technical "customs violations".  
These 8 convictions will all be appealed if necessary.

The Jury acquitted the BHI of 73 of the charges. They could not come 
to complete agreement on 68 other charges, but they were deadlocked 
at 11-1 for acquittal on all of them. The judge may order not guilty 
verdicts based on these results, but this remains to be seen. The BHI's 
past dealings with J. Battey have been like playing leapfrog with a
unicorn, so you never know.

I attended the final week of the trial. The courtroom was full all
week(unlike earlier weeks).We kept a scorecard of how many times 
objections were overruled or sustained and in who's favor the judge 
ruled. Battey ruled 18-3 in favor of the prosecution the first day I 
was there. Other days were even more slanted for the prosecution. 
The BHI was only allowed a small percentage of their requests to 
enter evidence, whereas the prosecution was allowed to enter 
virtually everything they requested.

The jury was clearly not impressed with the "conspiracy" and 
"fossil theft" charges, on which over 90% of the prosecution's 
case was based. Right to the very end, during closing arguements, 
the prosecution hurled allegations about things like fossil 
"conspiracies" and "unindicted co-conspirators". The jury wasn't
biting on any of it because there simply was no evidence to
substantiate these charges. This case should never have gone to
trial. I think about the injustice done to the defendants, their 
families and friends, and the whole town of Hill City, S.D. in
these last few years. 

Defense Attorney Bruce Ellison summed up the feeling: 
"To put these men(the BHI) through this was unconscionable."
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A summary of the defendants:

- Terry Wentz - acquitted on all counts(4 felonies and one misdemeanor)

- Ed Cole - acquitted on one count, no verdict on 2 counts.  
On the "no verdict" counts, the jury was 11-1 for acquittal.
[Note: Mr. Cole is not a BHI employee]

- Neal Larson - was not convicted of a single felony although he was 
charged with 37 of them. He was convicted on one misdemeanor.  
(all "no verdict" counts were 11-1 for acquittal)

- Bob Farrar - convicted of two charges of "undervaluing fossils on 
customs documents". Even the government's "experts"  are unable to 
consistently answer how any law was  actually broken. The jury 
instructions may have been very restrictive to result in these convictions.  
This will be appealed.  (all "no verdict" counts were 11-1 for acquittal)

- Pete Larson - convicted of 2 "customs violation" felonies; one for 
failing to declare $31,500 in travellers checks brought from Japan to USA, 
and one for failure to report $15,000 in cash he took to Peru. These were 
truly technical violations and will be appealed. Pete was also convicted 
of two misdemeanors involving fossils worth less then $100.
(all "no verdict" counts were 11-1 for acquittal)

- The Black Hills Institute -  convicted of 4 felonies; 3 for "customs 
violations",  and one for "retaining" a fossil alledgedly collected by 
someone else from Badlands Nat'l. Park.
(all "no verdict" counts were 11-1 for acquittal)
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This decision by the jury not only gives the BHI back their good name,  
but perhaps lays the groundwork for sanity with regard to fossil 
preservation policies. The PRPA bill may have just received the boost 
it needed to be introduced in both the House and the Senate. The PRPA 
bill (Paleontological Resources Preservation Act) is basically an
attempt to implement the recommendations of the National Academy of 
Sciences(1987) with regard to access of fossils in the field. I will
be posting an article on the PRPA soon which was written by Marion 
Zenker of the Black Hills Institute. Although Marion was not charged
with any of the counts, she was called by the prosecution to testify 
at the trial(a move the prosecution certainly regrets). I would urge
all of you to give Marion's article a look. If it makes sense to you,
this is the time to send that letter/fax, or make that call to your
congressman to support the PRPA bill. It won't cost the taxpayers
anything, and it will result in alot more fossils being discovered, 
collected, documented and preserved.
-Paul
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Random quotes:
"I'm going to plant a garden. It's spring." - Neal Larson
"The BHIGR will continue to operate". - Pete Larson