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Jury in PG&E criminal case will get to hear about San Bruno explosion


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Jury in PG&E criminal case will get to hear about San Bruno explosion

The jury in the criminal case against needs tohear about the fatal 2010 San Bruno, Calif., pipeline explosion that set thecase in motion, the judge ruled.

PG&E's attorneys, who have as much as possible, on July 10 actually requested that the judge allow morediscussion about the incident during the trial. Because post-ruptureinvestigations have been brought up repeatedly, the jury should betterunderstand how the investigations relate to the charges at hand, PG&E said.

On July 12, Judge Thelton Henderson ruled that the explosionis too closely tied to the criminal allegations of safety rule violations andinvestigation obstruction for the jury to be kept in the dark about therupture. "[W]ithout context, the jury is being improperly led to believethat [California Public Utilities Commission and National Transportation SafetyBoard] scrutiny indicates guilt," Henderson wrote.

PG&E's attorneys had asked for the court to give thejury more information to "set the proper context for the post-accidentlandscape" but also to block all the CPUC data from being allowed asevidence.

The judge's ruling partially granted PG&E's request, butonly the part that would allow the jury to have greater access to information.He denied the company's request to block the CPUC data, noting that the contentand context of the investigations are explicitly relevant to some of thecharges the company is facing, even if the CPUC's and NTSB's ultimate findingswere not a part of the trial.

"The court is … pleased that PG&E finally agreesthat the best course of action in this criminal trial is to mention the SanBruno explosion to the jury, but to mention it carefully," Henderson'sJuly 12 order said. "But the court's rationale for excluding CPUC and NTSBconclusions does not apply to the data responses PG&E provided to CPUC andNTSB in the process."

Henderson also observed that it was "inevitable"that the CPUC and NTSB investigations into the deadly pipeline rupture wouldcome up in the course of the trial.

Federal prosecutors charged the subsidiary withobstructing the NTSB's investigation into the pipeline explosion, along with 12felony counts of violating the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act.

Despite the updates to the jury instructions, the courtmaintained that the jury is not tasked with determining what did or did notcause the San Bruno explosion.