Jurors signaled they may be having a difficult time reaching a verdict in the trial of Ammon Bundy and six other militants who staged an armed takeover of an Oregon nature preserve.
The jury sent a note to the court Tuesday afternoon asking the judge for guidance if they’re able to “agree on a verdict for 3 of the defendants but are at a standoff for the others,” reported Oregon Public Broadcasting.
One of the jurors also questioned the impartiality of a juror who once worked for the Bureau of Land Management — one of the federal agencies whose duties Bundy, his brother and the other defendants are accused of impeding.
“Can a juror, a former employee of the Bureau of Land Management, who opens their remarks in deliberations by stating ‘I am very biased …’ be considered an impartial judge in this case?” asked Juror No. 4 about Juror No. 11.
U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown questioned the juror and attorneys in the case, and the former BLM ranch tech and firefighter said his employment 20 years ago with the agency would not impact his duty to impartially weigh evidence in his deliberations.
The juror’s work history came up during voir dire, when the judge and attorneys are allowed to question prospective jurors before they are seated, but defense attorneys did not use one of their “peremptory strikes” to remove the man from the jury pool.
Legal experts told The Oregonian that keeping the juror could provide grounds for an appeal, if any of the defendants are convicted, and the judge has asked attorneys to submit any arguments about the juror by Wednesday morning.
But Tung Yin, a professor at Lewis and Clark Law School, said the judge questioned the juror and found he could remain impartial, and that would be “very difficult to challenge successfully on appeal.”
The apparent disagreement among jurors would seem to be bad news for the prosecution, legal observers told the newspaper.
If a juror is dismissed during deliberations, one of the alternates who heard trial testimony would be assigned to fill the vacant spot — but the jury would have to start the deliberations over from the beginning.