Oregon Standoff

Federal Overreach in Search of More Prison Time Cost Them a Conviction, Says Juror in Oregon's Malheur Wildlife Center Occupation Acquittal


Why did the jury in the trial of seven occupiers on trial for actions connected to the occupation earlier this year of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge acquit them?

Because of the specifics of what they were charged with. And what they were charged with is likely because of a federal desire to maximize the potential time they'd spend in prison.

Pace the hundreds of angry progressive in my social networking world in a bloody sad rage over the fact these folk didn't spend more time in jail than they already have in the process of trial, the mere act of being on federal property after closing hours, that is, the mere fact of the occupation itself, is not what they were charged with.

The specific charges, as noted here Thursday, were "conspiring to impede federal employees through intimidation, threat or force. Four had additional charges of having guns in a federal facility, and two were charged with theft of government property."

A juror spoke via email to Oregon Live about how that decision on the Feds' part, one almost certainly motivated by a desire to get potentially more prison time, messed them up:

"It should be known that all 12 jurors felt that this verdict was a statement regarding the various failures of the prosecution to prove 'conspiracy' in the count itself – and not any form of affirmation of the defense's various beliefs, actions or aspirations," Juror 4 wrote Friday in a lengthy email to The Oregonian/OregonLive….

Juror 4 noted the panel couldn't simply rely on the defendants' "defining actions" [that is, the occupation per se] to convict….

"But we were not asked to judge on bullets and hurt feelings, rather to decide if any agreement was made with an illegal object in mind," the [juror] wrote. "It seemed this basic, high standard of proof was lost upon the prosecution throughout."….

Defense lawyers urged jurors in closing arguments not to mix-up the "effect" of the occupation – which undoubtedly kept federal employees from doing their jobs—from the "intent" of the occupiers…

"Inference, while possibly compelling, proved to be insulting or inadequate to 12 diversely situated people as a means to convict," the juror wrote. "The air of triumphalism that the prosecution brought was not lost on any of us, nor was it warranted given their burden of proof."…

It seems this juror has some of the same type of friends on social networking as I do:

[the juror] said he is "baffled" by what he described as observers' "flippant sentiments" in the wake of the jury's acquittals.

"Don't they know that 'not guilty' does not mean innocent?" he wrote. "It was not lost on us that our verdict(s) might inspire future actions that are regrettable, but that sort of thinking was not permitted when considering the charges before us."….

The smoking gun point proving the prosecutors tripped themselves up with their desire for vengeance on the occupiers:

… many of the jurors questioned the judge about why the federal government chose the "conspiracy charge." He said he learned that a potential alternate charge, such as criminal trespass, wouldn't have brought as significant a penalty.

The charge of conspiring to impede federal employees from carrying out their official work through intimidation, threat or force brings a maximum sentence of six years in prison.

Federal criminal trespass is at worst a misdemeanor, which generally has a maximum possible prison penalty of a year. The structure of the charges meant that if the conspiracy part wasn't proven, the specific gun charge also fell.

The juror's final word: "We all queried about alternative charges that could stick and were amazed that this 'conspiracy' charge seemed the best possible option."