Chevron not guilty

Pub date December 1, 2008
SectionPolitics Blog

by Amanda Witherell

The jury didn’t think so.
Image courtesy of Justice in Nigeria Now

A federal court jury in San Francisco has found Chevron not guilty in a case alleging the corporation was complicit in the shootings, killings, and torture of protesters on a Chevron oil platform off the Niger Delta in 1998.

Plaintiffs in the case, who include Larry Bowoto, injured when Nigerian police opened fire on the unarmed protesters, have announced they will appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit, the most liberal appeals courts in the country.

“The fact that Bowoto v. Chevron made it this far in the process is a victory in and of itself, because it means that we have demonstrated that there is a clear pathway in the US court system for holding corporations accountable to the rule of law,” said Laura Livoti, founder of the group Justice in Nigeria Now, in a press release after the verdict. “This is the first time a case against a company for aiding and abetting human rights violations overseas has even gone before a jury.”

The case was filed under the Alien Tort Statute, an 18th century law that allows foreign victims of human rights crimes inflicted by US-based corporations to sue them in US courts, and a ‘guilty’ verdict would have been a first – similar cases settled out of court in the past.

So, this is a victory for Chevron, which has been spending a lot of cash on its image lately and was dealt a losing hand from voters on Election Day with the passage of Measure T, a business tax reform measure that will cost the billion-dollar corporation $26 million. The money will go to Richmond city coffers and Green Party Mayor Gayle McLaughlin has said funds will be allocated for projects through an open public process, according to a story in today’s Chronicle.