Attorneys representing a pipeline protester will coordinate discovery with another case to prepare for necessity defense arguments, a legal strategy that argues a defendant had no choice in taking an illegal action in order to avert greater harm.
HolyElk Lafferty, 38, a Cheyenne River Sioux and Lakota activist, is charged with misdemeanor counts of criminal trespass and engaging in a riot from activities on Feb. 1, the same day as attorney and Standing Rock Sioux tribal member Chase Iron Eyes' arrest.
Defense attorneys and Morton County prosecutors have agreed to consolidate Iron Eyes' and Lafferty's discovery schedules reaching into next spring and summer.
Iron Eyes' February felony jury trial has already been canceled. Lafferty's misdemeanor jury trial is set for May 31.
Judges in their respective cases will ultimately decide if they can use the necessity defense — claiming the perceived threat of the Dakota Access Pipeline forced them to commit civil disobedience.
District Judge David Reich questioned why the proposed discovery schedule would disrupt a trial already six months out.
Defense attorney Lanny Sinkin said the facts of Iron Eyes' and Lafferty's cases are similar, and thus consolidating discovery would streamline the process.
Morton County Assistant State's Attorney Chase Lingle said he's worked with the defense to clarify discovery schedules in both cases.
Reich said he would sign an order for the proposed discovery schedule while Sinkin said he would withdraw several previous motions until they eventually fit in.
Thursday's hearing was less than 15 minutes but well attended by familiar faces in the pipeline cases, including Iron Eyes and Mary Redway, the first DAPL-related defendant to serve incarceration as a sentence.
Earlier this month, Iron Eyes' attorneys asked for further discovery and a schedule reaching as far ahead as June or July for a pretrial conference.
His attorneys will likely argue for his necessity defense in April, Sinkin previously said.
Iron Eyes is charged with felony inciting a riot and misdemeanor criminal trespass.