One of the reasons America is still great

When I wrote about the Oregon standoff trial this past Thursday, I did not mean to say much beyond pointing out one amusing parallel. The Swiss army man who, on behalf of the FBI, ran the occupiers’ shooting range introduced himself to the Bundy folk as “Killman.” Aliases rarely get more grotesquely gratifying – other than in adventure novels, such as The Barsac Mission by Jules and Michel Verne, in which a degenerate Englishman who calls himself Harry Killer lords over a desert city called Blackland.

It turns out that all the defendants in the Oregon trial have been acquitted of all charges, except one charge of theft on which the jury was deadlocked.

Three cheers for the jurors. They are one of the reasons America is great, after all, and an example to honest commoners elsewhere.

There’s already much lamentation and delicate-wristed hand-wringing in the commentary universe, with speech bubbles like “jury nullification” floating around, waiting to be punctured. Unsurprisingly, out-of-state media has largely ignored the last, possibly the most important day of the evidence phase. This time, I’m quoting from Oregon’s public broadcaster, OPB:

Earlier in the day, Fabio Minoggio — a government informant who went by the name “John Killman” at the refuge — testified about his role in the occupation.

“I was asked to oversee the shooting range”… He said he taught firearm safety and “proficient use of a firearm.”

The defense had identified Minoggio… as one of the 15 confidential informants the government said it used during the occupation.

An important, yet unanswered, question is how many of those 15 were mere prosecution witnesses who agreed to testify after the standoff had ended, and how many were acting as government agents during the standoff. The greater the number of de-facto federal agents involved in a supposedly illegal activity, the greater the chance of their acting as agents provocateurs, provoking the unsuspecting others into breaking the law. But even if that number was one, limited to “Killman,” the government sending a Swiss Army expert to teach the disgruntled occupiers to shoot might have been an outrage serious enough for the jury to decide that the whole standoff had been caused by government infiltration and entrapment.

The final chapter of the trial, the post-verdict epilogue as it were, was also extraordinary, although in a negative sense. The federal marshals, disobeying the presiding federal judge, arrested Ammon Bundy’s lawyer straight in the courtroom:

Suddenly, a group of about six to seven U.S. Marshals, who had been either standing or seated around the perimeter of the courtroom, slowly moved in and surrounded Mumford at his defense table. The judge directed them to move back but moments later, the marshals grabbed onto him.

Such ugly scenes happen, occasionally, in Russian courtrooms as well as – I assume – all over the third world, but this was a federal court in the US. Not some God-forsaken small town where the judge and the assistant DA and the police chief are all buddies and the out-of-town lawyer comes across as a hostile alien set to destroy their fraternal idyll.

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.”

Maxine Bernstein did a great job covering the trial for The Oregonian/Oregon Live.

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