Closing arguments in Ms Griner’s trial have been going down on Thursday, practically six months after her arrest at a Moscow airport and subsequent detention in a case that has reached the best ranges of US–Russia diplomacy due to the Ukraine conflict.
Though a conviction seems virtually sure, judges have vital leeway in relation to sentencing.
Attorneys for the Phoenix Mercury heart and two-time Olympic gold medalist have referred to as for her to be acquitted.
A lawyer on Ms Griner’s defence crew, Maria Blagovolina, argued that Ms Griner introduced hashish cartridges together with her to Russia inadvertently and solely used them in Arizona, the place medical marijuana is authorized. Prosecutor Nikolai Vlasenko argued that Ms Griner packed the hashish oil intentionally.
Critics within the US declare she is getting used as a political pawn by Moscow and earlier than her trial started in July, the State Division designated her as being “wrongfully detained”, shifting her case below the supervision of its particular presidential envoy for hostage affairs, successfully the federal government’s chief hostage negotiator.
Final week, in a unprecedented transfer, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, urging him to just accept a deal below which Ms Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia on an espionage conviction, would go free.
The Lavrov-Blinken name marked the highest-level identified contact between Washington and Moscow since Russia despatched troops into Ukraine greater than 5 months in the past.
Individuals aware of the potential prisoner swap, say it might result in Ms Griner and Mr Whelan being traded for infamous arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Ms Griner apologized to her household and her crew throughout closing arguments in her trial on Thursday.
“I made an sincere mistake, and I hope in your ruling it doesn’t finish my life”, she advised the court docket, based on the Related Press.
Attorneys for Griner have put ahead character witnesses from her Russian crew which she performed for through the WNBA offseason in addition to written testimony from the physician who issued the hashish prescription for treating ache.
Ms Blagovolina argued that Ms Griner ought to be acquitted, citing her lack of a prison document and due to her work in “the event of Russian basketball”.
One other lawyer defending Griner, Alexander Boykov, spoke about her function in successful a number of championships together with her crew Yekaterinburg, including that she’s cherished by her teammates, lots of whom look as much as her.
Mr Boykov advised the court docket that Ms Griner being convicted would hamper Russian efforts to enhance their nationwide sports activities and go towards Moscow saying that politics ought to be faraway from sports activities.
The legal professional famous that following her arrest, Ms Griner gained the liking of the guards and different inmates, with some shouting “Brittney, all the pieces will probably be okay!” throughout her walks on the jail.
Mr Vlasenko argued that along with the jail sentence, she ought to be fined 1,000,000 rubles ($16,700).
Earlier than the decision was handed down, Ms Griner stated she didn’t intend to interrupt the regulation when she introduced vape cartridges on her flight.
“I wish to apologize to my teammates, my membership, my followers and town of (Yekaterinburg) for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I introduced on them”, Ms Griner stated, based on the Related Press. “I wish to additionally apologize to my mother and father, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury group again at residence, the wonderful girls of the WNBA, and my wonderful partner again at residence.”
Ms Griner stated that Yekaterinburg, situated east of the Ural Mountains, had change into a “second residence” for her.
“I had no concept that the crew, the cities, the followers, my teammates would make such an excellent impression on me over the six and a half years that I spent right here”, she advised the court docket. “I bear in mind vividly popping out of the gymnasium and all of the little women that have been within the stands there ready on me, and that’s what saved making me come again right here.”