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Judge Bans Defense Arguments in Bundy Retrial

She is going to extraordinary lengths to address prosecution fears of “jury nullification,”

Judge bans defense arguments in Bundy retrial
(Photo: Robert Anglen/The Republic)

Judge bans defense arguments in Bundy retrial

Editorial by Las Vegas Review-Journal
July 13, 2017

Government prosecutors have a friend in U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro.

The judge is presiding over the retrial of four defendants charged with various crimes stemming from their participation in the 2014 Bunkerville standoff near Cliven Bundy’s ranch. The first trial ended in April with the jury deadlocked on all counts involving the four men.

On Monday, the judge eviscerated the defense’s legal strategy, putting off limits a whole host of issues that might make it more difficult for the government to win convictions. The defendants will be forbidden from arguing that they were exercising their constitutional rights to peaceably assemble and bear arms. They may not highlight the actions of BLM agents in the days leading up to the incident or mention federal gaffes such as the ill-advised “First Amendment” zone created for protesters.

And if imposing these restrictions on the defense wasn’t enough, Judge Navarro ruled that prosecutors may introduce testimony about the four accused men and their associations with so-called militia groups.

Judge Navarro made a similar ruling before the first trial. She is going to extraordinary lengths to address prosecution fears of “jury nullification,” in which jurors refuse to convict based on a belief that the law or potential punishment is unjust. The practice dates to 1734, when a jury ignored statutes and acquitted publisher John Peter Zenger on charges of criticizing New York’s new colonial governor, accepting arguments from Mr. Zenger’s attorney, Alexander Hamilton, that the newspaper had simply published the truth.

Federal prosecutors have encountered unexpected difficulty — both here and in Oregon — in securing convictions against those protesting federal control of Western public lands. But the issue here isn’t whether one believes the Bundy defendants are courageous freedom fighters or zealous lunatics. Rather it’s whether a judge should usurp the rights of the defendants to have a jury of their peers consider their arguments alongside the law, evidence and other testimony.

Judge Navarro’s sweeping order reflects a deep mistrust of the American jury system.


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4 Comments on Judge Bans Defense Arguments in Bundy Retrial

  1. Mr. Boyd White is correct: jury nullification predates the Zenger trial, and it was Andrew Hamilton who defended Zenger.

    On October 26, 1649, John Lilburne was found not guilty due to jury nullification. There are many parallels between Lilburne and Ammon Bundy: political prisoners found not guilty despite a sham trial; remained imprisoned despite the verdict; tortured in prison; and both are men of principle who demanded that the government follow the law.

  2. This corrupt , Constitution violating judge needs to be removed from the bench !! What oath did she swear to uphold when she was put in ? !!!! This is more than just an injustice , if this is allowed it affects US ALL !! Chipping away at out liberty , freedom , and rights !!!
    What we allow will continue !!

  3. Why can’t Navarro be taken off the case? She surely can’t be the only judge in that county. Some attorney should seek to have her removed.

  4. Good article but there is one shoddy piece of research in there.

    Jury Nullification predated 1734…example via William Penn circa 1670 in England. And Zenger’s lawyer was Andrew Hamilton…not Alexander Hamilton

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