Trial of “Pepper Spray 8” may deadlock again

In 1997, protesters locked themselves together with metal sleeves to protest Pacific Lumber Co.’s plans to log old-growth forests in California’s Humboldt County. Although the protests were nonviolent, Humboldt police swabbed pepper spray in the eyes of eight protestors at three separate protests. Footage of the protestors screaming in pain was broadcast, lawsuits were filed, and the “Pepper Spray 8” became a cause celebre among enviros. The legal battles since have included a hung jury, a U.S. district court judge who dismissed the suit only to be overruled twice and eventually removed, and a U.S. Supreme Court order to remand the case to the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ordered the jury trial now under way. As of yesterday, final arguments are over, with the plaintiffs’ lawyers having alleged torture and a deliberate political attempt to suppress protest, while lawyers for the police argued that pepper spray is a safe “tool.” After only hours of discussion, the jury announced itself deadlocked, only to be told by the judge to return this morning to deliberation. Stay tuned.