A jury in Portland, Oregon on Thursday acquitted [NPR report] all seven defendants involved in the 41-day armed occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge [official website], in a trial that lasted nearly six weeks. The defendants were acquitted of the main charge of conspiring to impede federal employees from performing their duties, while no verdict was reached in connection with Ryan Bundy’s charge of theft of government property. The jury returned its verdict after less than six hours of deliberations. Federal prosecutors argued that members of the Bundy family conspired to keep federal workers from performing their jobs at the wildlife refuge site through “threats and intimidation,” while defense attorneys responded that that the Bundys were merely protesting the federal government’s control of public land in the west through the exercise of their First and Second Amendment rights. Defendant Ammon Bundy’s attorney, Marcus Mumford, demanded that his client be released immediately following the verdict. US District Judge Anna Brown refused to release Ammon and several others, stating that they would remain in federal custody because of similar pending charges in Nevada. An agitated Mumford had to be restrained by US Marshals after he reportedly started yelling at the judge [NYT post] and was warned by Brown not to yell at her “ever again.”
Many expressed disappointment and concern over the jury verdict including Oregon Governor Kate Brown [official website] who said [NYT report] that “The occupation of the Malheur Reserve did not reflect the Oregon way of respectfully working together to resolve differences” and Joan Anzelmo, a retired federal land manager, who stated [NPR report] that this is a “very dangerous verdict … This was a national wildlife refuge that was taken over essentially in an act of domestic terrorism.” Aside from the problems posed by the northwest militia, gun control [JURIST backgrounder] and the Second Amendment in general continue to be controversial topics across the US. In May the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the Second Amendment protects the right to buy and sell guns [JURIST report]. In January US President Barack Obama announced executive actions on gun control [JURIST report].