Jury begins deliberations in Malheur Refuge trial

The takeover at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge lasted 41 days

Courtroom sketches of Ammon and Ryan Bundy plus Judge Anna J. Brown, October 2016 (Sketches: Deborah Marble)
Courtroom sketches of Ammon and Ryan Bundy plus Judge Anna J. Brown, October 2016 (Sketches: Deborah Marble)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The federal conspiracy case against Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy and 5 co-defendants is now in the hands of jurors.

U.S. District Judge Anna Brown thanked all 12 jurors and the alternates for their dedication during the trial that began six weeks ago. Earlier this week, the alternates asked the judge if – instead of being dismissed – they could be allowed to listen to a live audio feed of deliberations, since it’s a landmark case in Oregon history.

The defendants:
Ammon Bundy
Ryan Bundy
Shawna Cox
Neil Wampler
Kenneth Medenbach
Jeff Banta
David Fry

The judge said she’s never had such a request. She denied it, citing the sanctity of secret jury deliberations.

Ammon Bundy in early 2016 led what turned out to be a 41-day occupation of a national wildlife refuge near Burns. He and his co-defendants are charged with conspiring to impede Interior Department employees from doing their duties at the refuge.

Closing arguments

Ryan Bundy told jurors to “stand for freedom” and find him not guilty as he gave his closing argument Wednesday in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation trial.

The reason Ryan joined the protest, he explained, was to support ranchers Dwight and Steve Hammond who he believes were wrongly imprisoned. He said federal government overreach not only put the Hammonds behind bars, but continues to imperil the economies of places like Harney County.

Complete coverage: Malheur National Wildlife Refuge takeover

In her closing argument, Shawna Cox’s lawyer Tiffany Harris said she wanted to remind jurors “the refuge is a public place and these are public employees.”

David Fry’s attorney told the jury Wednesday his client is “not a man of threats”. He said Fry could not have had a “conscious purpose” of impeding workers because he didn’t even know USFWS employees worked at the refuge.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight gave his closing argument Tuesday and urged jurors to use common sense when deciding whether to find the occupiers guilty.

Knight said the occupiers made a choice “to take over someone else’s workplace,” and that the case is about the law, not claims of federal government overreach.

But in his closing remarks, Ammon Bundy’s attorney Marcus Mumford said his client didn’t have a problem with refuge employees.

“It was with their employer, the federal government,” Mumford said. “It won’t respect its limits.”

The timeline of events

The Associated Press contributed to this report