Thursday, October 27, 2016

A few quick thoughts about the Oregon Standoff trial and subsequent acquittal.

A picture of the protesters. LA Times/AP

Today, many of the people involved in the Oregon Standoff were acquitted by a federal jury. As you probably remember, the Bundy family have had several incidents with the federal government, mostly over land use issues. They had a massive standoff in Nevada and followed that up with another standoff at a wildlife refuge. The LA Times has a good overview of the case and the acquittal here. 

So what's my take on it? It's a clear case of jury nullification. Jury nullification means that the jury admits that the prosecution has a case but doesn't convict anyways.The facts of the case almost certainly warrant a conviction. But since the defendants were sympathetic, the jury decided to not convict them. I am pretty sure that is what happened in this case.

Keep in mind, there is absolutely nothing wrong with jury nullification. It's a right that juries have and, quite frankly, it's an right they should use more often. People often don't know it exists, so hopefully this case will change things. 

What would I have done on this jury? Probably the same thing. It was clear to me that the government was throwing their weight around. And their actions resulted in the death of one of the protesters. He drew down on the FBI, which is an open invitation to get shot, so I don't blame the government for actually shooting him, but on the other hand, they created the situation in the first place. There was no reason for the government to aggressively target the Bundy family in the first place. All they needed to do was wait them out and not go all Waco on them. 

So what are the implications of this verdict? Well it is clear to me that in rural America, the people are sick and tired of the federal government pushing people around. This protest was mostly peaceful and their cause was, at the very least, understandable and sympathetic for people in the west that have had to deal with these land rights issues. 

Some people on social media are blaming this verdict on race relations and other identity politics nonsense. I don't buy it. For one, the federal government came down harder on the Bundy family then they did on Black Lives Matter. BLM has been way more disruptive and destructive then the Bundy family yet they still exist. And their protests usually don't end with anyone being shot... except when their followers try to murder cops. Had the government treated the Bundy standoff like they treat BLM, then the occupation would still be going on and the feds would be looking the other way. 

I also think that this should be a clear warning to the federal government. It's clear to me that they need to do some serious outreach to rural America. The Bureau of Land Management needs to back off and the feds need to stop these prosecutions. They need to recognize how unpopular their actions are and either need to change course or try and convince people that they are in the right. Throwing their weight around is only going to make things worse...  

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