Oregon Standoff Judge Rules On Self-Representation, Mental Health Testimony
Despite raising questions about the legitimacy of the court and whether the federal government really owns the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, defendants Kenneth Medenbach and Ryan Bundy will still be able to represent themselves at next month’s trial.
“Self-representation is not a license to do what you want,” U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown said at a hearing Tuesday, directing her comments at Medenbach.
“When I make a ruling, you must follow it whether you agree with it or not,” Brown later told Bundy. Brown added her statement was especially true in front of the jury.
Brown had previously asked both defendants to explain why she should continue to allow them to act as their own attorneys in the case, after they had violated court orders.
She said both Bundy and Medenbach had shown contempt for the court by raising issues like her oath as a judge and questioning the federal government’s right to own land — issues Brown had previously ruled were off limits in the trial.
Jury selection for eight defendants going to trial, including Bundy and Medenbach, begins Sept. 7. Federal prosecutors have charged them with conspiring to impede federal employees by force, threats or intimidation, from doing their jobs at the refuge near Burns, Oregon.
Medenbach told the judge he would “follow all the rules” and that the two of them were "on the same page.”
Before making a decision, Medenbach’s court appointed co-counsel Matthew Schindler, told the judge that Medenbach wanted to retain his self-representation status because he wanted to have a say in his defense strategy.
“He doesn’t want me to degrade Ryan Bundy. He doesn’t want me to degrade Ammon Bundy,” Schindler said.
Schindler said typically, like in a conspiracy case involving drugs, he would argue the conspiracy’s leaders were responsible, not his client. But, Schindler said, Medenbach didn’t want that kind of defense.
“I’m not going to revoke your pro se status,” Brown told Medenbach, after he agreed to follow the court’s rules.
Ryan Bundy appeared more reluctant to agree to Brown’s conditions.
“I will abide by the court’s rulings as long as the court rulings are in abidance of the law,” Bundy said. “It is my right to be able to defend myself … I do not relinquish power over myself to another.”
Brown said if Bundy violated her orders he would lose the ability to represent himself and his court appointed standby counsel, Lisa Ludwig, would take over as his attorney.
Defendant David Fry will have a medical professional testify to his mental health status as part of his defense at trial.
Fry’s attorney, Per Olson, said in court Tuesday that Fry has been diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder. Olson said the condition is associated with paranoia. He said it will provide context and help explain some of Fry’s actions at the refuge.
Olson wants to show at trial how Fry’s attitude changed following the shooting death of LaVoy Finicum, one of the occupiers. Finicum was killed by Oregon State Police on Jan. 26 following a traffic stop.
Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting