Did the Judge Select the Jury in Bunkerville Retrial?
by Shari Dovale
Eric Parker, Ricky Lovelien, Steven Stewart and Scott Drexler are back in a Vegas courtroom for a retrial of charges related to the 2014 Bunkerville Standoff.
Judge Gloria Navarro declared a mistrial in the case in April when the jury could not reach a consensus for the majority of charges against the defendants.
Two of the defendants, Gregory Burlson and Todd Engel, were found guilty on some of the charges and will not be retried on the remaining charges. They are scheduled to be sentenced later this month.
Jury Selection in the new trial began this week with Judge Navarro immediately taking over the process.
From eyewitness accounts in the courtroom, we were told of the seemingly “rigged” system that the Judge used to select the jury she wanted.
Under Rule 24, The government has 6 peremptory challenges and the defendant or defendants jointly have 10 peremptory challenges when the defendant is charged with a crime punishable by imprisonment of more than one year. The court may allow additional peremptory challenges to multiple defendants, and may allow the defendants to exercise those challenges separately or jointly.
In this case, with four defendants, the defense began with 10 strikes and the prosecution with 6. Each party was given one additional strike. Specifically, each defendant was given an additional strike and the prosecution should have been given an additional strike as well.
Prior to jury selection beginning, the prosecution filed several motions. One of these motions was to have the prosecution receive an equal number of additional strikes as the defense. This is not considered fair to the defense of multiple defendants, and is not normally allowed.
Keep in mind that the “system” is supposed to be set up with the presumption of innocence for the defendants, and the burden placed upon the prosecution.
Judge Navarro, however, agreed with that motion and granted the prosecution 4 additional strikes. She also ruled in favor of the prosecution on every single pre-trial motion!
Her ruling brought the total challenges to 14 for the defense and 10 for the prosecution.
During the course of jury selection, after all strikes for “cause” were completed, the process began to strike members from the jury pool by both sides. This process does not need explanation, as each side has their own criteria to decide who they want removed. The exception to this rule is called a “Batson Challenge”.
Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court ruled that a prosecutor’s use of peremptory challenge in a criminal case—the dismissal of jurors without stating a valid cause for doing so—may not be used to exclude jurors based solely on their race. The Court ruled that this practice violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The case gave rise to the term Batson challenge, an objection to a peremptory challenge based on the standard established by the Supreme Court’s decision in this case. (Wikipedia)
This is important for several reasons. The Batson case itself was a civil rights case. The Supreme Court was ruling on a Prosecutor’s use of peremptory challenges to exclude people strictly because of their race. This was, again, to keep the trial fair for the defendants.
Therefore, when a Batson challenge is made, the prosecutor needs to explain why his striking a juror was not based on their race. Most prosecutors can easily handle these questions, but it is important for them to put it on the record.
In today’s hearing, the challenges were such that the defense struck 7 men and 7 women. The prosecutions strikes were for 8 women and 2 men.
However, it was the prosecution that made an objection based on a Batson challenge and claimed that the defense was biased against men. They claimed that there were men removed from the jury pool wrongly. They accused the defense of gender-bias.
The defense should not have had to explain their criteria to the court. It is the defense, after all, and they do not have the burden of proof. However, Judge Navarro made the defense cite their reasoning for every challenge they made against the jurors, with one juror receiving what seemed to be special attention.
They explained that they felt an underlying deception from the prospective juror. Their ‘gut’ told them the person was not being honest. They did not want the person on the jury.
“There is a level of deception that has taken place here,” was the response from the defense team.
The judge made comments to the effect that the juror’s answers were what she would expect the defense to want.
They judge did not find any reason acceptable that the defense should have had 5 particular men removed, and she put them back on the jury. She re-seated these jurors despite the challenges from the defense. She effectively told the defense that they cannot have a say in who is kept or removed from the jury.
Not only did she put them back on the jury, but she took the 5 challenges completely away from the defense. They were now down to 9 when the prosecution still had 10. So the advantage again went straight to the government.
The defense, to their credit, then objected to the prosecution for the same Batson challenge, citing the fact that the prosecution used 80% of their challenges against women. Judge Navarro refused to rule on that objection and did not even open an inquiry on it. She completely brushed it under the rug and moved on.
This judge took complete control of selecting the jury by not allowing the defense their challenges. She had particular people she wanted on the jury (specifically juror number 296?) and she was not about to allow the defense to remove him. Could this be considered jury tampering?
Navarro has already shown her disregard for the US Constitution. She has already made it clear that she has an agenda with these defendants. She is clearly not going to allow another mistrial in this case and will do whatever it takes to get the verdict she desires. These citizens, that have been held for 18 months without bail, do not stand a chance.
This is how the communists in the former Soviet Union used to run their courts. Blatant rigging of the system. We have now, almost unbelievably, seen it in our own country. The country that is the supposed to be where Freedom Rings.
This has actually happened in the United States of America, in the Year of Our Lord 2017.
God help us!
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