Makah tribe postpones hearing for five who killed whale

Neah Bay, Washington (AP) 1-08

A trial date was supposed to be set during January for five Makah tribal members accused of illegally killing a gray whale last year, but the tribal court had to postpone the hearing because there’s no judge to conduct it.

Jean Vitalis, the tribe’s former chief judge, was expected to hear the case but left the bench after her contract was not renewed.

The new top jurist, former Associate Judge Emma Doulik, recused herself, citing “strong emotions” about the case.

The tribe asked the Quinault tribe’s chief judge to hear the case, but she declined, citing health reasons.

The whalers are charged with violating the tribe’s Gray Whale Management Plan, breaking state and federal laws and reckless endangerment for firing a high-powered rifle at the whale.

They also face charges in federal court. That trial is scheduled to start March 18 in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.