Last week, a jury was selected in the upcoming Bundy Ranch trials. However, there is a lot of talk about whether the prosecution will continue to use underhanded methods and the judge impose unconstitutional gag orders on the defense to keep them from being able to defend themselves. We already know that has and will continue to happen.
However, following the second trial, in which several defendants were tried twice because the prosecution couldn’t make their case to the jury, a group of top attorneys in Las Vegas sat down to discuss what was going on and ask if it was an issue of the attorney general’s office in not making its case or was this an issue of jury nullification.
Here’s the brief roundtable discussion.
Among the attorneys present were:
- Robert Eglet, Esq.
- Paul Padda, who was a prosecutor in the US Attorney General’s office in Las Vegas
- Christian Morris
In what Eglet called “strike two” for the feds, it seems the pressure is going to be on prosecutor Steven Myhre more than ever to get convictions, something he has struggled with in the previous two cases.
Shari Dovale points out, “The conviction rate for Federal Prosecutions are extraordinarily high, with most years showing higher than 99%. Between guilty pleas and trials, the conviction rate was 99.8% in U.S. federal courts in 2015: 126,802 convictions and 258 acquittals. That wasn’t an anomaly. In 2014 the conviction rate was 99.76% and in 2013 it was 99.75%.”
“However, in the high-profile Bunkerville Standoff case, the prosecution is lowering the rate considerably,” she added.
Dovale then recounts the conviction rate in the Bundy trials which is pretty pitiful and the underhanded way the prosecution not only engaged in what is so clearly double jeopardy with Scott Drexler and Eric Parker but even in attempts of manipulation to get them to cop to a felony charge, something neither of them would do.
However, as the attorneys discussed the first two Bundy trials, in preparation for the upcoming trial which will feature Cliven, Ryan, and Ammon, along with Ryan Payne, they make some interesting observations.
Padda said, “We seem to live in a system where the machine just continues to move forward.”
I think Padda had some of the most enlightening, and frankly frightening, comments right off the bat.
“The government always has the burden of proof in a criminal case to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed,” he said.
While he thinks people being upset with Judge Navarro’s rulings are misplaced, he ties that to how evidence may come in rather than the rule of law, which is the main factor here.
“I think the US Attorney’s Office, in this case, just can’t seem to make the case,” Padda continued. “I think at some point, somebody has to do some introspection and say this is now a second federal jury that has exhaustively looked at all the evidence the government has put on the table and said ‘no.,’ when they were acquitted on most of the charges and hung on a few is, how many times are the feds gonna try the same case?”
Egbert then made reference to the conviction rate pointed to above, but its what he points to for that conviction rate that makes the entire judicial process frightening.
“There’s a ninety-nine percent conviction rate because no defendant can ever match the resources of the federal government when it comes to prosecuting them,” said Egbert.
Padda added, “That’s true, and I think the laws are definitely skewed in favor of the government, and the judges often will give the government, you know I mean the argument is often judges will say well if you want to contest the charges, you can go to trial, and what happens is most people say well, you know what, the consequences are so severe under our Sentencing Guidelines, again, going back to the 1980s when there was this overreaction in Congress and they created these sentencing guidelines that impose very severe penalties on people who decide to opt to exercise their constitutional right and test the government’s evidence at trial.”
“Justice Scalia once wrote an opinion that we no longer really have a criminal justice system,” Padda continued. “We have a system of plea bargaining where people plead guilty because they don’t want to take a chance.”
Personally, I think this is what led reporter Pete Santilli to plead out. Government holds you in a cage for a year and a half, seeks to silence your attempt to defend yourself by pointing to the Constitution, the unethical nature in which the unconstitutional Bureau of Land Management handled things, the constitutionality of central government land ownership and a variety of rights protected under our Constitution.
Santilli had the goods on the government, but there is a lot of pressure and threats that continue from the beast, there is no doubt.
Egbert, while not attempting to defend either the Bundys nor their supporters believes the case has been heard twice and lost twice and now more time and taxpayer money will be spent to present the same evidence that’s already been rejected twice. When is enough, enough?
Morris agrees that they should just give it up and drop the charges. She also added that juries are “smart.”
“When even though they couldn’t raise the defense of free speech and the right to bear arms in this case, everybody knows those rights and so the jury is looking at theirs through everything else,” she said. “I think it is impressive these verdicts coming out. I think it really speaks to why there was so much outrage about the case, why it got so much press, why there are so many people that came and supported them.”
“We are not supposed to be overthrown by the government and told what to do, and they can’t play those games,” she added.
Morris then gave her estimation that this was not jury nullification, but something else.
“I don’t think it was jury nullification at all,” she said. “I think it was citizens of the United States sitting there and seeing the overthrow attempt and saying, ‘absolutely not, we’re shutting it down.'”
Morris hopes the verdicts will continue like this because she believes it sends a strong message as to how powerful the people really are and it speaks to their level of patriotism
“The principle behind it is the government can’t come in and just do whatever they want and shut down anything that they choose to shut down,” she said. “I like the message that it sends.”
Morris also went on to state that the pressure on the prosecutor is to win regardless of the facts or they may lose their jobs. So, it’s try, try, try again, no matter what rights you have to violate or clear levels of unfairness to the defense you have to engage in.
This is something that should be concerning seeing that the prosecution has already said that they can hold defendants up to five years and not be violating their right to a speedy trial, and have sought to violate the defendants’ rights through multiple pleas to the court not to allow them to defend themselves.
Morris is correct in her assessment, but she failed to use the word “corrupt,” which is exactly the conclusion to which her comments lead.
The fake interview by the FBI posing as journalists was another issue brought up that blurs the lines and is, in essence, entrapment, but we know the FBI does this, as well as tie themselves to the Associated Press without approval, run child porn websites and even present themselves as private investigators when they are not.
Padda said, “It’s troubling that the FBI went in and did this sort of fake interview like they were a news channel and gathered evidence and I think that’s what the jury found distasteful about, not so much that the jury was in favor of the Bundys as much as they said, ‘we think if you’re the government you have to play by certain rules.”
This leads to bigger questions regarding how the ATF, the FBI, the CIA and the DEA operate as they often engage in unlawful acts to justify catching “criminals.” They will unlawfully traffick weapons, drugs and even encourage terrorist activities on American soil, all in an attempt to entrap people.
It’s know as “the ends justify the means.” It’s unethical.
Finally, the attorneys got around to talking about jury nullification.
Egbert pointed out, “Under Nevada law, jury nullification is illegal. It is not legal for a jury to ignore the legal instructions and say, ‘we don’t care what the law is, we’re gonna find this case this way regardless whether it’s in the criminal or civil.”
He then tossed the question to Padda about how it is viewed in the federal system.
Padda said it basically comes down to the jury simply saying that they don’t find the evidence persuasive, even though he claims he doesn’t understand the concept of jury nullification.
While Jury nullification is not a well-known concept for most Americans, the idea is allowed in American law.
Jury nullification is pretty simple to understand. It’s when the people believe the law they are faced to judge a person on is unlawful. A simple example that people could simply understand would be in the case of the Nuremberg trials. Under Nazi German “law,” horrible things were allowed to take place, including immediate execution on the street for bearing arms, taking of property and even murdering people simply on the basis of their religion or heritage. Those laws were basically deemed “null and void” and people were prosecuted. Although that is a sort of it in reverse, the same principle applies here.
Joshua Cook has also pointed out a few good examples in our own day in which jury nullification can be used.
One example, of course, is drug legislation, and another is controversial food laws. Perhaps the most talked about topic, though, is self-defense and gun rights. People can be charged criminally for having the wrong guns, ammunition or magazines for their area. In a recent case a Connecticut man who had committed no crimes was arrested for having too many guns, and in another a New York man was arrested for having too many bullets in a legal gun. In such cases, jury nullification could be not only helpful, it could allow entire areas of the country to remain relatively safely armed, knowing that a jury would nullify any conviction.
Ben Swann reported jury nullification has existed since the time of the founding fathers, citing a Supreme Court ruling from 1794 that read, “Juries have the power to judge the facts of the case as well as the law itself.”
As more and more unjust laws are passed, jury nullification could prove a useful tool in the fight against tyranny.
Of course, Egbert gives an extreme example of what he believes jury nullification to be by presenting a hypothetical of a man murdering his wife and as the jury comes to give an acquittal of that man he takes a gun in the courtroom and murders the man. He believes that people can just throw out what the definition of murder is through jury nullification, which I think is absolutely ridiculous, but that’s his argument.
I’m sorry, is there no one who understands what premeditated murder is? Is there anyone that would not understand that can’t just be nullified? Frankly, I don’t think it’s even a good argument because at the heart, jury nullification is about whether a law is just or unjust, and the only way I know you can determine that is through God’s law, and God’s law is crystal clear on the issue of murder.
The only person on the panel who was not an attorney made reference to the movie The Verdict with Paul Newman and said, “The perception amongst the American public is that they are the ultimate authorities.”
No, it’s not that, but the federal government does seem to think it is. I, however, ask this question, who are the governors in the united States of America? Who formed the federal government? Who tied the federal government with the chains of the Constitution? It was the people, and they did so with a moral foundation that they were to keep before God and abide by His law. So, when laws are created in violation of the Constitution and God’s law, the people have a duty to call such laws unlawful and unenforceable.
I’m not sure the Bundy Ranch trials resulted in jury nullification, but it’s clear the prosecution never made their case. We’ll see if they have the good sense to count their losses and move on, but I’m not expecting to see that kind of humility on the part of Steven Myhre.
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