Chief Judge Gloria Navarro issued a ruling today effectively putting the jury in the upcoming Tier 3 trial under the same protective order as all of the discovery evidence. The order comes as no surprise since the case historically garners much media attention. However, it wasn’t the act of putting juror identities under protective order that gave rise to notice; it was the reason for the order that stands out as peculiar.
From the ruling…
The Court also notes there have been several occasions during the pendency of this case when (1) pro-Defendant demonstrators have congregated at the public entrance in front of the Courthouse where the trial will take place, often on days when court was in session on this matter and (2) telephone, email, and U.S. Mail messages have been received by the Court protesting Defendants’ prosecution and at times threatening presiding judicial officers and those involved in the court process.
Translation: the exercise of First Amendment rights is an existential threat to the Government’s excessive prosecution of the alleged crimes of these defendants.
Not the first time…
The decision to deny the jury access to the Tuquop Wash had similar reasoning. The Court ruled that it could not reasonably assure that supporters would not show up at the wash while the jury was there. Both the Court and the Government recognize that supporters can mobilize both quickly and efficiently. These supporters typically wave flags, hold signs, and speak their mind. They dialogue with the general public. They are vocal, but act within the rule of law.
Court Protects Jurors Identities
With an anonymous jury, no one will know any of the details about the jury that the public typically knows. It should not impede the due administration of justice. The jury will hear the same evidence (that the court allows). It is the Court’s reasoning that is suspect.
Supporters gather quickly and are vocal. They exercise First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble. Even if the Court’s claim can be substantiated, the actions of one or two should not reflect negatively on the overwhelmingly positive nature of these supporters demonstrations.
The Bundy Ranch trials are an assault to push back the boundaries of the First and Second Amendments. Ascribing blame for an anonymous jury to the lawful First Amendment activities of a group of supporters is a continuation of this assault. Media attention alone would suffice for an anonymous jury order; leave it to the District of Nevada to leave no stone unturned.