It was a wild and crazy time at federal court in Portland yesterday:
The jury returned its verdict after six weeks of testimony followed by less than six hours deliberations, and the last minute replacement of a juror after an allegation surfaced that he was biased. The jury was instructed to disregard its previous work and to re-consider the evidence.
The allegation of bias was made by Juror #4, a full-time business administration student at a minor-league college in a Portland suburb, against Juror #11, a former ranger and firefighter who retired from the Bureau of Land Management twenty years ago. He was dismissed on Wednesday, and his replacement arrived yesterday morning; at which time "deliberations" began anew, supposedly. Less than six hours later, they declared all seven defendants not guilty. Pandemonium ensued when the Bundy boys were ordered held to face charges in Nevada; Ammon Bundy's lawyer protested, at one point yelling at the judge before being tackled by half a dozen U.S. Marshals, tazed, and handcuffed.
Margaret "Margie" Paris, a University of Oregon law professor and former dean, said she couldn't believe what occurred when she learned of the confrontation.
"It just blows my mind,'' Paris said. "To have a lawyer who's making an argument in court physically restrained and taken down is extraordinary. He's entitled to make these arguments. If he was repeating himself over and over, the more typical response is to hold him in contempt. But to physically accost him is just shocking.''
Actually, it was more like stunning, but that's a purely semantic discussion. Many were taken aback by the federal use of force against a lawyer in a federal courtroom; the judge ordered the courtroom cleared.
Many people people across the country took to Twitter and other social media to play the race card, claiming that the outcome would have been different had the defendants been black. They appear outraged that the defendants were all white, the attorneys were all white, and so was the judge and the jury. That should not have come as any great surprise, given the demographic makeup of the state, which is overwhelmingly white; blacks make up only around 2.6% of the population (although at the rate black gang members are shooting one another - there were three more shot overnight in northeast Portland - the percentage may well decrease).
Amusingly, one guy complained that it was an LDS conspiracy, since the Bundy boys are Mormon and the whole place is infested with Mormons, so the jury was likely all Mormon. Obviously, he doesn't know much about Oregon, since the predominant belief system here is Fundamentalist Idiocy.
What the jury "found" was that prosecutors did not prove conspiracy nor intent to impede federal workers through intimidation, threats, or use of force. That seems an odd finding; don't know about you, but a lot of folks would find the presence of armed guards at the entrance and armed men in a watch-tower somewhat intimidating.
This is bound to be a hot topic of discussion around the country between now and the election, unless something big blows up between now and then.