The retrial of four men accused acting as gunmen in an effort to intimidate federal law enforcement is in its fourth day of deliberations downtown at U.S. District Court. The feds were providing security for a court-ordered impoundment of Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle.
State of Nevada contributor John L. Smith has been covering the retrial and he joins us to discuss recent developments in the case and what is definitely a clash of political and philosophical beliefs in Federal Judge Gloria Navarro’s courtroom - and out on the street, where supporters for the defendants have gathered on a daily basis.
How is trial different from the last one?
Judge Gloria Navarro really narrowed potential testimony to focus directly on the charges and didn’t leave the defense much wiggle room in terms of its potential to say its clients were trying to defend themselves – self-defense or defense of others.
They also weren’t allowed to talk much about the Constitution and that sort of thing. In the first trial, you’ll remember the First Amendment and the Second Amendment were issues. They were exercising their rights. At least, that is what [the defense] tried to push for.
In this case, it’s very different. The judge has been much tougher on the defense. She’s had them focus very narrowly with the evidence available. A lot of the stuff that tended to focus the jury elsewhere has not been in this trial.
Do the supporters have a point about the heavy handiness of the federal agents?
There’s no question that there’s been an increase in militarization as it’s called in federal agents. The BLM carries more weapons. Their rangers have testified in two cases but also have spoken privately about this. When you’re out there hundreds of miles from the next ranger and every car you roll up on has weapons, it is silly not to have them.
What different world views are you seeing in the courtroom?
Several folks from the press locally that are covering this trial, especially now that it’s winding up, and have been doing that in a kind of paint-by-numbers effort. But they’re up against people who see the world so differently that everything that the judge is doing is seen as part of a conspiracy, as part of an unfairness to the defense. And that every move in the trial, moves that if you cover trials are really fundamental… if you haven’t watched a lot of it, it can seem unfair.
In the final move this past week, where the defense declined to give its closing argument… the folks went outside to the sidewalk and got on the internet… saying it was so unfair – the whole trial – that the defense didn’t even have a closing argument. Well, what they didn’t say and perhaps weren’t aware of was the defense was also strategically blocking acting U.S. Attorney Steve Myhre having his final rebuttal.
Might this end in a hung jury?
It’s less likely this time and also - understand - that this is a complex case to make some decisions on. Even if everyone is in agreement to start with, there are ten charges. The charges are layered. There are variations and just to get through that would take a couple of days.
John L. is also intrigued by a letter that MGM Resorts CEO sent to employees, saying that the company will match any contributions workers give to anti-hate groups, like the Anti-Defamation League, or the Southern Poverty Law Center. Is this a gauntlet thrown at Murren's fellow casino execs, Sheldon Adelson, Steve Wynn and Phil Ruffin?
"It's been pretty quiet actually. I haven't heard of any letters being written to employees matching funds or anything like that," Smith said.
On Jerry Lewis:
My experience with him was first as a columnist where he would call on occasion, he read a column that he liked. It was personal and it was brief. He didn't invite me over for sandwiches and coffee. But it was one of those things, where this person is such an icon in my youth. You grow up watching his movies, knowing the Rat Pack, the telethon - all of that. So that was pretty cool.
Then my daughter, more than a decade ago was diagnosed with brain cancer. And one of the people who called, to reach out, just to be a human was Jerry Lewis. I'll never forget that. Those people who went out of their way in their lives to say, 'hang in there' say 'our prayers are with you.' That kind of humanity. I think because he has such a reputation and it's not all positive. He was a complex person like we all are, that was a real kindness.
John L. Smith, contributor
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