Brittney Griner’s high-profile drug possession trial, which was initially expected to last for weeks or even months, is anticipated to conclude in Russia very soon, the WNBA star’s attorney Maria Blagovolina told Reuters. On Thursday, the closing arguments will take place. Later this month, the sentencing decision will be made.
A defense expert argued in court on Tuesday for the seventh hearing of the case that the analysis of the vape cartridges with cannabis oil found in Griner’s luggage at an airport near Moscow in February was illegal under customary Russian legislation.
Forensic chemist Dmitry Gladyshev gave testimony for the defense during the nearly two-hour hearing, stating: “The examination does not comply with the law in terms of the completeness of the study and does not correspond with the standards of the Code of Criminal Procedure.”
After the hearing, Blagovolina cited one particular infraction, noting that the examination results had not revealed the precise concentration of THC in the materials discovered in the cartridges. The WNBA player was accused by Russian prosecutors of having less than one gram of cannabis oil in her possession when she traveled to Russia to play with UMMC Ekaterinburg in the playoffs.
Despite maintaining that the cartridges were packed accidentally and there was no intention to contravene the law, Griner pleaded guilty to the drug smuggling allegations.
Griner faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail if found guilty. In the midst of the never-ending hearings, the State Department proposed a prisoner swap deal to Russia in order to secure the release of both Griner and Paul Whelan, a former security executive and veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who the American government claims was wrongfully imprisoned on suspicion of espionage.
We continue to think that any information exchanges on this subject should be kept private, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to Reuters. Megaphone diplomacy and the airing of grievances in public will not produce outcomes.
Russian officials have previously said that a potential prisoner exchange would only take place following the Griner trial’s verdict. However, a source familiar with the situation told The New York Times that the United States was open to exchanging the Griner and Whelan for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.