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Closing Arguments Continue Wednesday As Malheur Trial Nears End

Malheur trial defendants mugshot 7

Courtesy Multnomah County Sheriff Office


Closing arguments continue Wednesday for seven defendants who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge this year. The case is coming to an end after nearly six weeks of testimony.

Closing arguments began Tuesday, starting with the government. Then came Ammon Bundy’s attorney, Marcus Mumford, whose final arguments before the jury lasted about four hours.

Mumford said during closing arguments he made a clear contrast with the government’s case.

“The government came in and attempted to show that it was somehow – Mr. Bundy and the other defendants didn’t respect the law. And what we tried to say is right off the bat, ‘No.’ They were simply demanding that the government obey the law, that the government comply with the law. It’s a real disconnect here,” he said.

Now, the remaining defendants will make their closing arguments to the jury.

Among them is Ryan Bundy. He's one of occupation leaders who is representing himself, and will make his own closing arguments.

The government has charged the defendants with conspiracy to prevent federal employees from doing their jobs at the wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon’s high desert. Some of the defendants have also been charged with carrying firearms in a federal facility, and theft of government property.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight told jurors during the government's close Tuesday that the defendants' beliefs were not on trial. That was significant because a cornerstone of the defendants' case has been to use their beliefs to explain why they took over the wildlife refuge in Harney County.

Knight told jurors the conspiracy charge is the crime of an agreement. He said the agreement could be an informal one, and there need not be any proof the conspiracy was ever carried out. Knight also cited evidence to support his case for why the government believes each of the seven defendants on trial is guilty.

Mumford told jurors that the case the government has brought is the very reason there was an occupation in Harney County: government overreach. Using a Power Point presentation that included quotes from former presidents, he told jurors that Ammon Bundy was counting on them to stop the overreach from continuing.

Mumford said if jurors have any doubt after reviewing the evidence , they should find his client not guilty.

Before the jury begins its deliberations, federal prosecutors will have one final chance to make their case, because the burden of proof rests with the government.

Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Conrad Wilson is a reporter and producer covering criminal justice and legal affairs for OPB.