Jury of 12 plus four alternates selected for second Oregon standoff trial

By Maxine Bernstein | The Oregonian/OregonLive  on February 15, 2017 at 4:15 PM, updated February 21, 2017 at 8:15 AM

A jury of seven women and five men, plus four alternates, will return to court next week for opening statements in the trial of four remaining defendants in the occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys picked them after U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown spent a day and a half of questioning about 58 prospective jurors out of an original pool of 1,000 people from across the state.

The judge referred to the jurors only by number in court and rarely identified the person's hometown or type of work.

Most of the jurors are from outside of Multnomah County and come from outlying areas in western Oregon, including coastal communities, a defense lawyer said. A couple are from Multnomah County and at least one from central Oregon.

Based on questioning in court, the jurors include:

-- A woman who said her father served in the Navy in World War II and told the judge she could evaluate the facts of the case fairly. She said she recently saw an Oregonian article about the trial starting and "threw it away,'' as directed by the court's instructions.

 -- A woman who nodded and smiled as the judge instructed the panel about the charges in the case and the jury's role. She told the court that she didn't know much about what happened at the refuge and that she believes everyone has biases. She said she recognizes people have a right to bear arms under the Second Amendment, but supports certain additional gun control measures, including expanded background checks. She said she has participated in permitted marches in the past. She said serving on the jury would be a unique experience.

-- A woman who said she had given up on TV, "got fed up with the news and quit listening" because of the election turmoil. She said her husband has offered to drive her to jury duty each day.

-- A man who said that he was aware of the verdict in the first trial when a jury acquitted occupation leader Ammon Bundy and six followers, and noted, "it seemed the jury got it right.'' He added, though, that he wouldn't second-guess the jury instructions or legal issues. "I feel I can be impartial,'' he said. He said while working, he'd always get excused from jury duty because of the nature of his work. But now that he's retired, "I feel like it's my time to give back.''

-- A man who said he has a parent who had worked for the U.S. Forest Service.

-- A man who said he's served on juries before in both civil and criminal cases. He also said he's avoided the news on the refuge case.

-- A woman who said she didn't know much about the refuge takeover and has been on other juries. "I feel honored to be a citizen and to be able to fill this role,'' she told the judge.

-- A man who said he doesn't follow the news. "You don't want to believe a lot of it,'' he said.

-- A man who said he didn't have any preconceived opinions about what happened at the refuge. He also said he doesn't watch the news. "I just turn the channel," he said. "It's all bad.''

Opening statements in the trial, expected to last up to four weeks, will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Jason Patrick, Duane Ehmer, Jake Ryan and Darryl Thorn are charged with conspiring to impede federal employees from doing their work at the refuge through intimidation, threats or force. Patrick, Ryan and Thorn also face weapons charges, and Ehmer and Ryan are accused of digging trenches on the government property with a refuge excavator.

The jurors will return verdicts on those felony charges; the judge will issue verdicts on misdemeanor charges, including trespass and tampering with vehicles and equipment.

The court initially summoned 1,000 people across the state for jury duty and asked each to fill out and return a detailed questionnaire about their backgrounds, knowledge of the refuge occupation and first trial last fall and thoughts on the First and Second Amendments.

About 200 didn't respond and several hundred were excused for hardship. The court brought in three panels of between 20 and 25 potential jurors each for questioning in the courtroom Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

After the judge excused a number of the potential jurors for perceived biases, defense lawyers scrapped 15 for no reason through what's called peremptory challenges. Prosecutors had nine such challenges.

Prosecutors took the unusual tack of hiring a consultant for jury selection, Laura Dominic from Tsongas Litigation Consulting Inc. She sat behind the two prosecutors and beside an FBI case agent, taking notes during jury selection.

Prosecutors take unusual move to hire jury consultant in 2nd Oregon standoff trial

Prosecutors take unusual move to hire jury consultant in 2nd Oregon standoff trial Current and former federal prosecutors and defense lawyers who have worked in federal court in Oregon for nearly 30 years can't recall a single criminal case when a consultant has helped prosecutors pick jurors.

 

Among the jurors tossed by prosecutors were: a man who expressed animosity toward the U.S. Bureau of Land Management; a woman who wrote on her questionnaire that she thought the government's response to the refuge occupation was "heavy handed'' and referred to the fatal shooting of occupation spokesman Robert "LaVoy" Finicum by state troopers; a municipal employee who wrote on his questionnaire that the country should "get rid of politicians and let workers do their jobs''; a retired newspaper reporter who said he was uncomfortable with extreme right-wing, anti-government groups and had a brother-in-law convicted of conspiring to kill his wife in California.

Among the jurors dismissed by the defense team were: a woman who said she "shut out" news of the refuge takeover "because it was too confusing to me,'' and that she's OK with people who used good judgment with firearms but that her ex-son-in-law wasn't one of those; a woman who said she was a Sierra Club member and supported the right to carry firearms but didn't support people "menacing'' somebody with a weapon; a woman who wrote that an armed occupation seemed "extreme'' to her; a woman who said her father retired from the Bureau of Land Management; a man whose father was a career Los Angeles police officer who had his police car overturned during the Watts riots; a man who wrote in the questionnaire that he thought there were better ways than an "armed rebellion'' to achieve what the occupiers set out to do.

In other developments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Barrow told the judge that prosecutors are asking U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for approval to subpoena former Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter John Sepulvado, now working in the San Francisco area, to offer a radio interview clip from his interview in early January 2016 with Ryan Bundy.

The prosecution didn't play the interview for jurors in the first trial after defense attorneys balked, arguing that they wanted to hear the full, unedited interview to understand the context of Bundy's statements. Prosecutors backed off and didn't subpoena Sepulvado for the first trial.

In the interview, Ryan Bundy explained why the occupiers took over the refuge: "From this facility right here is where the charges came from to destroy the Hammonds, to throw the Hammonds in prison. It has taken more than a hundred ranchers out to make this place. It is destroying the lives and liberties and properties, property rights anyway, for those around. It's being facilitated from this office. So by being here, it puts a stop to that.'' Bundy was referring to father-and-son Harney County ranchers, Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond, who had to return to prison on Jan. 4, 2016, for setting fire to public land and serve out a five-year prison terms.

Defense lawyers are opposed to the use of the audio at trial. "We hear of this five days before we start trial,'' said Jesse Merrithew, Ryan's defense lawyer. He also said he found the timing questionable, wondering if prosecutors waited to request a subpoena of a reporter from Sessions, instead of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Case 3-16-cr-00051-BR Document 1914 Filed 02:20:17 Page 1 - 4

OPB is expected to try to quash a subpoena, if issued.

-- Maxine Bernstein

mbernstein@oregonian.com
503-221-8212
@maxoregonian

source

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