Civics Lessons

If Matsch's ruling holds, it will be the first officially sanctioned breach of grand jury secrecy.

But the two cases have other connections besides their plutonium-laden source. As it made its way through the courts, Stone's suit was joined by the government--and Rockwell protested, arguing that the 1992 settlement of the grand jury investigation also indemnified the company from any further federal liability connected with its operation of the Rocky Flats plant, precluding any government involvement in Stone's lawsuit.

On Monday, though, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Rockwell's argument, affirming an earlier decision by Matsch that allows the federal government to remain a party to Stone's civil suit.

Stone learned of this legal victory when he picked up Tuesday's paper. Ten years ago he could not have imagined that the government would join him in an action against Rockwell. After all, the government was supposed to have overseen whatever went on at Rocky Flats; in its deliberations, the grand jury found the feds just as culpable as the corporation. But ten years ago Stone could not have imagined that he would still be waiting for his case to go to trial.

Another civics lesson: The wheels of justice turn slowly.
Cleaning up the environmental mess at Rocky Flats is as complicated as the legal tangle--and it's a task that Stone has had plenty of time to consider. After all, he's the one who first warned about plutonium in the ductwork, a warning ignored until the feds discovered sixty pounds of the radioactive stuff. "They haven't found it all," he says. "They don't know what do to with it." Stone thinks he does. And so he's applied for a contracting job to help the cleanup effort--although he's certainly not holding his breath.

Nor is McKinley. He holds his tongue just this side of legal and hopes that one day the grand jurors will finally be able to do their assigned duty.

When McKinley went into the federal courthouse that first day, he remembers seeing a protester waving a sign that urged the government to "Free Jennifer." Two and a half years later, when the grand jury was dismissed and the Rockwell deal cut, Rocky Flats protester Jennifer Haines was still serving out her four-and-a-half-year sentence for trespassing on federal property.

Today she's free--but McKinley and the rest of the grand jurors are not.

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