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Know the West

Game of trials?


In your short article, “Why the Bundy crew keeps winning in court,” you stated that some of the trial attenders felt that the judge was prejudiced against the defense (HCN, 9/18/17).

I attended much, although not all, of the Bundy trials here in Portland, Oregon, and had an opportunity to overhear some conversations among defense supporters, and occasionally to talk with them directly. I think that some of those perceptions come from their misunder-standings of how court proceedings work. For example, they thought that Judge Anna J. Brown was unfair to them because she overruled more objections from defense attorneys than those from the prosecution attorneys. They seemed to think that the trial was some sort of game, where you keep score for each side.

Yet the reality is that, although they were technically right — the judge did overrule more objections from defense attorneys than from prosecution attorneys — that is because the defense’s objections were frequently without merit under the law. Although I am not legally trained, I could see that: Many of the defense objections were simply objections to negative evidence being presented about the defendants. Well, that is how a trial works: Each side tries to present its own witnesses in the best possible light, and the opponents in the worst, although their evidence does need to be hard evidence — facts, not opinions.

Being fair does not mean “keeping score” evenly, but using the same standards to judge each side, and that standard is the law.

Marian Rhys
Portland, Oregon