The Western View: Bundy Trials

Taylor HillmanFeatures, Western View

Bundy Trials
Bundy Jury

If you’ve been following the Bundy trials, you’ve probably noticed there’s a trend going on, and it is not the trend people might have expected. The trend is against the government – they are losing most of their cases.

The Bundy trials, of course, are the result of a group of American cattle ranchers protesting policies and procedures that the cattlemen thought were unfair. Rancher Cliven Bundy had been withholding payment on his land use fees as part of the protest. Back in 2014 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) attempted to seize his cattle to collect the fees. Ranchers and others joined Bundy at his ranch, and an armed confrontation brought the cattle seizure to an end.

In 2016, the Bundys and others took the protest to Oregon, to show support for an Oregon rancher who was being jailed, unfairly in their eyes. They took over the Malhuer Wildlife Preserve and occupied it for several weeks.

The principles in all these cases were charged with a variety of federal crimes, some of which had very long prison terms. But those trials are not ending well for the Feds.

As reported in High Country News, when it comes to trying the Bundys and their supporters, federal prosecutors now have a terrible record, winning just two convictions after two trials of six defendants in Nevada this year. Last fall, Bundy’s sons Ryan and Ammon Bundy and five others were acquitted’ for their part in the armed takeover of the Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

The article, which was written by Tay Wiles, went on to say, “The recent acquittals in the Nevada case raise big questions for prosecutors. Some legal experts say the nation’s current political climate, characterized by distrust of federal authorities, may help explain the acquittals. In some ways, the government itself, alongside the defendants, went on trial in the Las Vegas courtroom.”

That sounds like a good description of what’s happening with the Bundy trials. However, I’d take it a step further. These verdicts sound a lot like Jury Nullification. Jury Nullification happens when a jury believes there is something seriously wrong with the law, or its application.

These federal juries – in two states, at different times, hearing a different set of facts — are sending a message to the Federal government: There’s something wrong at the BLM. Our leaders need to listen to this message.

I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West.