Feb 6, 2023
CONTACT: Extinction Rebellion Phoenix
Troy Horton, (503) 369-7382
Lydia Koltai, (662) 816-5290
Tempe, AZ — Climate activist Troy Horton will not stand trial in Tempe Municipal Court this week, following the prosecutor’s dismissal of charges against him. The case stemmed from a protest on May 19th, 2022 in which Mr. Horton politely tied himself to the front door of a Wells Fargo branch to protest the bank’s investments in fossil fuel projects. In a first-of-its-kind decision in Arizona, the judge had ruled to allow Mr. Horton to present a climate necessity defense at his trial.
The prosecutor’s decision to dismiss the charges was in line with a trend in which prosecutors around the country have elected not to try cases featuring climate necessity defenses.
Following his arrest, Mr. Horton had pleaded not guilty and offered to present evidence to the court that his actions were a necessary response to the climate emergency. Mr. Horton, who has four children, seven grandchildren, and fourteen great-grandchildren, called on Wells Fargo to “stop making short-term profits at the expense of future generations’ ability to have a livable world.”
Arizona’s version of the necessity defense requires that the defendant have reasonably believed that his or her lawbreaking was necessary to avert a harm, that the harm was imminent and greater in magnitude than any harm caused by lawbreaking, and that the defendant lacked reasonable alternatives to lawbreaking.
The judge’s ruling to allow the necessity defense was the first known instance in which a defendant has won permission to present a climate necessity defense at a criminal trial in Arizona. According to Alex Marquardt, an attorney from the Climate Defense Project who helped advise Troy: “The necessity defense has been used successfully in many previous protest cases in which people took action after their political leaders had failed them, after first trying many other avenues. Whether or not they lead to courtroom trials, efforts like these are an important component of the movement to stop unchecked fossil fuel extraction.”