May 28, 2024


The hearing in Khimki city court comes six months after Griner, 31, was arrested at a Moscow airport and charged by Russian prosecutors with trying to smuggle less than 1 gram of cannabis oil in her luggage. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
The two-time USA basketball gold medalist, who also plays for a Russian team in the WNBA’s offseason, pleaded guilty to drug charges last month in what her lawyers say was an attempt to take responsibility and leniency if ultimately convicted and sentenced. .
“Considering the nature of her case, the insignificant amount of substance and (Griner’s) personality and history of positive contributions to world and Russian sports, the defense hopes that the plea will be considered by the court as a mitigating factor and there will be no severe punishment,” her legal team said last month.

The defense also tried to undermine the prosecution’s case. On Tuesday, at the seventh hearing in her case, a defense expert testified that testing the substance in Griner’s vapor cartridges did not comply with Russian law.

Test of Substance in Brittney Griner's Vapor Cartridges Violated Russian Law, Defense Expert Says

“The examination does not comply with the law in terms of the completeness of the study and does not comply with the rules of the Code of Criminal Procedure,” coroner Dmitry Gladyshev testified during the roughly two-hour hearing.

Maria Blagovolina, a partner at the law firm Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin & Partners and a member of Griner’s defense team, told CNN that her team’s experts found “some flaws” in the machines used to measure the substance.

At trial, Griner testified that she has a doctor’s prescription for medical cannabis and had no intention of bringing the drug into Russia. After her arrest in February, she underwent a drug test and came back clean, her lawyers previously said.

The U.S. State Department maintains that Griner is being held unjustly, and her supporters have called for her release and asked the U.S. to take further steps to try to free her from the country, perhaps as part of a proposed prisoner exchange.

“She’s still focused and she’s still nervous. And she still knows the end is near, and of course she heard the news, so she’s hoping that at some point she could come home, and we’re hoping as well,” Blagovolina said Tuesday. He added that the verdict in the case would come “very soon”, possibly on Thursday.

How did the trial go?

In court Tuesday, Griner sat inside the defendant’s cage in the courtroom. The charge d’affaires of the US embassy in Moscow, Elizabeth Rudd, attended the hearing and said afterwards that the US “will continue to support Miss Griner through every step of this process and for as long as it takes to bring her home to the United States safely ».

Griner’s lawyers have already made some arguments that the basketball player’s detention was mishandled after she was stopped on February 17 by staff at Sheremetyevo International Airport.

Her detention, search and arrest were “inappropriate,” Alexander Boykov, one of her lawyers, said last week, noting that more details would be revealed during the final hearing.

After being stopped at the airport, Griner was forced to sign documents she did not fully understand, she testified. At first, she said, she used Google Translate on her phone, but was later moved to another room where they took her phone and made her sign more documents.

No attorney was present, Griner testified, and her rights were not explained to her. These rights would include access to a lawyer once detained and the right to know what she was suspected of. Under Russian law, she should have been informed of her rights within three hours of her arrest.

CNN Exclusive: Biden administration offers convicted Russian arms dealer in exchange for Griner, Whelan

In her testimony, Griner “explained to the court that she knows and respects Russian laws and never intended to violate them,” Blagovolina said after last week’s hearing.

“We continue to insist that, indiscriminately, hastily, she packed her suitcase and did not pay attention to the fact that substances permitted for use in the United States ended up in that suitcase and reached the Russian Federation,” Boykov said. of the Moscow Legal Center, he said.

The trial was held in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the country’s clash with the US and Europe.

Last week, CNN reported that President Joe Biden’s administration proposed a prisoner swap with Russia, offering to release a convicted Russian arms dealer, Victor Bout, in exchange for Griner and another American prisoner, Paul Whelan. Russian officials countered the U.S. offer, multiple sources familiar with the discussions said, but U.S. officials did not accept the request as a legitimate counteroffer.

The Kremlin also warned on Tuesday that US “bullseye diplomacy” would not help the prisoner swap negotiations involving Griner. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow believes these talks should be “discrete”.

Griner’s family, supporters and teammates in the WNBA continued to express messages of solidarity and hope as they await the conclusion of the trial. The WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury are slated to play the Connecticut Sun on Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET.

Before the trial last week, the WNBA players’ union he tweeted“Dear BG… It’s early in Moscow. Our day is ending and yours is just beginning. Not a day or an hour goes by that you’re not in our minds and hearts.”

CNN’s Elizabeth Wolfe, Travis Caldwell, Dakin Andone, Kylie Atwood, Evan Perez, Jennifer Hansler, Natasha Bertrand, Frederik Pleitgen, Chris Liakos and Zahra Ullah contributed to this report.


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