Trial began with Dr. Warren again testifying to the spiritual imperative to provide aid in The Growler Valley, saying “the Growler Valley is a place of high and immediate need. It would be a hollow expression of my faith to not visit this area.”
Pima County Medical Examiner Greg Hess testified that there have been over 100 deaths per year in Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise counties since 2000. Unlike other medical examiners offices, the Pima County office employs two forensic archaeologists in order to identify and account for these deaths.
The prosecution attempted to discredit Hess by questioning the accuracy and conclusions of the data and implied that drinking water could be harmful for people dying of dehydration. They went so far as to imply that recovered remains that have been found in the desert could have been there for 50 years, a claim that was quickly renounced by Hess.
Mapping Expert Ed McCullough testified that the place Scott was stopped and charged for providing humanitarian aid is in the middle of a “trail of deaths” in the west desert.
Long term NMD volunteer Catherine Gaffney testified to the necessity of the work and the depth of Dr. Warren’s dedication to it. She spoke of people becoming used to the level of crisis and “the fact that this emergency has been going on for more than a decade doesn’t make it any less of an emergency. It just makes it more of a tragedy.”
Brother Sam Nasada, a Franciscan Friar, shared a moving account of a time he and Dr. Warren came upon human remains in the desert outside Ajo.
Sid Slone, the refuge manager of Cabeza Prieta, once more testified to the fact that he is “not aware how many people have perished on the refuge.” When asked by Judge Collins if there is food and water at rescue beacons, Slone said, “that would defeat the purpose.
Federal Prosecutors Anna Wright and Nathaniel Walters call their one and only witness: Jose Luis Valenzuela. They start by asking Valenzuela about rescue beacons, implying that the humanitarian aid work of No More Deaths and other groups is unnecessary. Valenzuela reports that, mere days after detaining and questioning Dr. Warren, he found a human skull in the same area.
Defense Attorney Amy Knight presents a compelling motion for acquittal for the abandonment of property charges, stating that the government has failed to meet the burden of proof. She argues that the laws on Cabeza “were created before the current migrant crisis, before people were dying in droves.” The motion is denied.
Defense team presents opening argument, outlining how Dr. Scott Warren acted in ways consistent with his spiritual beliefs and therefore he is protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
Defense argues to limit the scope of Warren’s testimony to only include information related to his “deeply held spiritual beliefs.” Attorney Greg Kuykendall argues that because he was not granted the chance to testify in a pre-trial hearing on RFRA, he has a right to this protection. Judge Raner Collins agrees that the failure to be granted a pre-trial hearing puts Warren in a difficult situation, but refuses to limit scope of his testimony
Dr. Warren takes the stand stating that, “to me all life is sacred and places are sacred as well… the sense of sacredness is in the continued presence and life force of the struggles that people undergo in that place.” He testifies that over the last 6 years he has been involved in the recoveries of 18 migrants who have died in the desert.
During cross examination, Prosecutor Walters asks no questions about Warren’s spiritual beliefs and instead jumps into a line of questioning about Warren’s actions on June 1st, 2017 and his role within organization No More Deaths..