Oregon standoff juror dismissed after bias issue

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A judge overseeing the trial of seven defendants who took over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon has dismissed a juror after questions arose about his impartiality during deliberations.

U.S. District Judge Anna Brown in Portland dismissed the juror Wednesday and replaced him with an alternate.

The jury will not resume deliberations until Thursday because the alternate must travel to Portland from Central Oregon.

Jurors sent two notes to the judge Tuesday that indicated they were having difficulty reaching a consensus after three days of deliberations.

In one note, a member of the panel said a fellow juror called himself "very biased." The writer asked the judge whether that juror, a former employee of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, can be considered impartial.

The federal agency manages the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon, a remote site that Ammon Bundy and his followers took over for 41 days this winter. During questioning last month before trial, the juror said he worked for the agency more than 20 years ago as a range tech and firefighter.

U.S. District Judge Anna Brown and representatives from the prosecution and defense met in chambers with the juror whose impartiality has been questioned. Brown questioned him and found no sign of bias. She left him on the jury and sent the panel home for the day.

When defense attorneys objected, Brown gave them until Wednesday morning to find case law that would support further questioning of the juror or the panel member concerned about his impartiality.

"We've done all we can do given the hour of the day," she said, repeatedly cutting off objections from defendant Ryan Bundy, Ammon Bundy's brother who is representing himself at trial.

The jury is considering charges against the Bundy brothers and five others of conspiring to impede federal workers from doing their jobs at the refuge. They took over the bird sanctuary Jan. 2, objecting to federal land policy and demanding the U.S. government turn over control of public range to local officials.

In the second note sent by jurors, they asked the judge: "If we are able to agree on a verdict for three of the defendants, but are at a standoff for the others, does our decision for the three stand?" The note does not identify the three.

Before sending the jury home, Brown sent back a note that instructed them to "consider each count for each defendant separately."

Also Tuesday, Brown sentenced Brian Cavalier, another defendant in the case, to time already served.

The bodyguard for Ammon Bundy pleaded guilty in June, one of 11 defendants to accept a deal from prosecutors.

Cavalier also faces charges in Nevada in a 2014 armed standoff with federal agents at Cliven Bundy's ranch.


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