On Thursday, September 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted Professor Paul Cassell's petition for review of a district court decision denying 14 community members the right to make a victim statement. The community members wanted to speak at the sentencing of CITGO on Monday, September 10. The district court, however, refused to consider their arguments that they had been harmed by CITGO's crimes. In granting the petition, the Fifth Circuit held: "[The community members] have a right to file their own motion to be declared crime victims under the CVRA, and it is clear and indisputable that no time bar prevented the district court from considering the novel arguments raised by pro bono counsel in its motion below." The Fifth Circuit accordingly directed the district court to hear the arguments of Professor Cassell and co-counsel Paula Pierce of Texas Legal Services. Cassell hailed the ruling: "This is an important victory for crime victims. The Fifth Circuit has recognized that victims have the right to secure pro bono legal counsel and advance their own, independent arguments in court. We look forward to convincing the district court that when CITGO criminally exposed the community members to the risk of developing deadly cancers, they were harmed and became crime victims with protected rights in the system."
Click to read the order.
Click to read the mandamus petition.