(CN) – An alleged member of the radical environmental group Earth Liberation Front won her bid for a new trial over claims that she helped burn down what the group thought was a genetic engineering lab.
The 9th Circuit said the lower court erred by allowing jurors to see “highly prejudicial” propaganda articles and by refusing to let Briana Waters refute the prosecution’s evidence with a documentary film that allegedly showed she was “devoted to peaceful means of protest.”
Waters, an alleged member of Earth Liberation Front, a group the FBI categorizes as domestic terrorists, challenged her convictions on two counts of arson and her 6-year sentence after she was found guilty of participating in burning down the office of Dr. Toby Bradshaw, a professor at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture.
The group believed the building was a genetic engineering lab.
A jury found Waters guilty after the district court admitted testimony against her from other members of the group, who did not implicate her at first, but later gave investigators her name.
The prosecution painted a picture of Waters as a violent anarchist by using evidence of anarchist propaganda in the form of articles Waters had allegedly given to another member of the group.
On appeal, Waters argued that the trial court was wrong to allow the articles to be introduced to the jury, because they contributed to a prejudiced view of who she is. She argued that her right to due process was violated when the court refused to let her refute the prosecution’s evidence with evidence that the government .
A three-judge panel for the 9th Circuit sided with Waters and ruled that the lower court had allowed her to be prejudiced by the prosecution’s evidence, including the “highly prejudicial” articles, without giving her an adequate opportunity to defend herself.
“While the evidence against Waters may have been sufficient to sustain her conviction, our review of the record does not leave us convinced that her conviction was fairly obtained,” Judge A. Wallace Tashima wrote for the Seattle-based panel.
The court reversed her convictions and sentence and remanded for a new trial.