One of the jurors who acquitted seven armed militants who took over an Oregon nature preserve said they were aware their verdict might embolden other anti-government activists — but he said that didn’t matter.
Juror 4, a full-time Marylhurst University business administration student, said the jury agreed prosecutors simply hadn’t proven the key elements of the “conspiracy” charge in the case necessary to convict Ammon and Ryan Bundy and five co-defendants, reported The Oregonian.
“It was not lost on us that our verdict(s) might inspire future actions that are regrettable, but that sort of thinking was not permitted when considering the charges before us,” the juror wrote in a lengthy email statement to the newspaper.
The juror, who sent a note Tuesday to the judge to report “bias” expressed by Juror 11, said the jury closely followed instructions laid out by U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown on how they should apply the law to the evidence and testimony they heard over five weeks.
Juror 11, who was dismissed after defense attorneys complained, insisted during an interview Friday that he was not biased from his time working for the Bureau of Land Management or as a corrections officer, but he knows he was the only juror leaning toward convicting the militants.
“We come from all different backgrounds, and because of my law enforcement experience I can see why some would perceive that I would be biased,” the juror, Curt Nickens, told the Elkhorn Media Group. “I didn’t want people to assume that just because I was a corrections officer that I think they should all be in jail.”
Nickens said he polled the jurors Oct. 20, shortly after deliberations began, and found the other jurors had already made up their minds to acquit — and he was not sure he could be swayed in that direction.
The jury voted to acquit just hours after starting over with an alternate following his dismissal from the case.
Juror 4 said the judge’s instructions prevented the jury from relying on the defendants’ “defining actions” to prove they had conspired to prevent federal employees from carrying out their official duties through intimidation, threat or force at the Malheur National Wildlife Preserve.
“We were not asked to judge on bullets and hurt feelings, rather to decide if any agreement was made with an illegal object in mind,” the juror wrote. “It seemed this basic, high standard of proof was lost upon the prosecution throughout.”
Prosecutors had alleged that Ammon Bundy and another militant, Ryan Payne, had conspired to take over the federal facility as early as Nov. 5, but Juror 4 said he and other jury members were persuaded by defense arguments that they should not confuse the “effect” of the occupation from the “intent” of the occupiers.
He also said jury members appreciated testimony from Ammon Bundy and four other defendants and were insulted by the perceived arrogance of the prosecutors.
“Inference, while possibly compelling, proved to be insulting or inadequate to 12 diversely-situated people as a means to convict,” the juror wrote. “The air of triumphalism that the prosecution brought was not lost on any of us, nor was it warranted given their burden of proof.”