Yesterday in the trial of seven defendants accused of conspiring to impede federal employees from doing their jobs after the January 2, 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlfe Refuge, the jury sent questions to the judge. One of those questions, hand written in all capital letters, was:
“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?”
The defense asked for the juror to be dismissed. Judge Anna Brown met with the juror and the attorneys and decided she would not immediately dismiss the juror. She gave the attorneys until 9am today to present case law to support the argument to dismiss the juror. This is an unusual development, and has resulted in a flurry of discussion and speculation from all sides on how it will effect the trial.
Ammon Bundy’s defense lawyer, Marcus Mumford, filed a motion to dismiss the juror this morning. Many reporters in the court room tweeted that Judge Brown stated, “there is not a way forward that is not fraught with risk.” Judge Brown asked that all parties agree to dismiss the juror on ‘good cause’ and she had a replacement juror chosen from a cup in preparation. She said if the prosecution did not agree to dismiss the juror, she would hear oral arguments on the motion to dismiss.
Meanwhile, the jury continued to deliberate. Judge Brown said if they reached a verdict while the court was deciding whether or not to dismiss the juror it would be yet another problem.
Finally, the prosecution agreed to dismiss the juror. The judge informed the jury that she had determined that juror 11 needs to be excused in the interest of justice, and that everyone would be back in court tomorrow morning for another round of jury instructions. She told the jury they will have to set aside the conclusions they had already come to and start over.