ASSOCIATED PRESS, MAy 12, 2006
Rocky Flats, Colorado, where a nuclear weapons facility operated by Dow has contaminated thousands of homes with plutonium
DENVER — The jury that awarded $553.9 million in a pollution case involving the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons site was “bullied” into its decision by three of its members, according to a juror.
“I really feel there should be a mistrial or appeal,” Juror Z. wrote, according to court documents in the case. “The more I think about this, the more I am sure the verdict is wrong.”
The note from the unidentified juror was in an affidavit that was part of an effort to have Senior U.S. District Judge John Kane declare a mistrial. He rejected the request Wednesday, saying deliberations were ratified by defense lawyers and challenged only after the verdict.
The federal jury earlier this year decided Dow Chemical Co. and Rockwell International Corp. damaged land around the now-defunct plant through negligence that exposed thousands of property owners to plutonium and increased their risk of health problems.
Dow Chemical operated the Rocky Flats for the government from the 1950s until 1975; Rockwell ran it from 1975 until 1989, when it closed. The plant made plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads.
Yellow dot shows location of the nuclear plant, paler areas show the plutonium plume spreading north-east: the lightest areas are the most heavily contaminated
Jurors found in favor of the owners of 12,000 properties northwest of Denver. They concluded that property values declined because of plutonium contamination. They also awarded punitive damages against the companies that operated the site for the Energy Department.
According to court documents, another juror with pro-defense leanings left the jury after being unable to stand criticism from those who wanted to find in favor of the homeowners.
The companies and their lawyers have cited several grounds to appeal, including jury instructions they say were too liberal.