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Crime & Justice

In light of surprise Malheur Refuge verdict, a look at the history of jury nullification




An anti-government protester wrapped in a Gasden flag stands outside the Harney County Courthouse on February 1, 2016 in Burns, Oregon.
An anti-government protester wrapped in a Gasden flag stands outside the Harney County Courthouse on February 1, 2016 in Burns, Oregon.
Matt Mills McKnight/Getty Images

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To the shock of even the defendants, a Portland jury on Thursday acquitted all seven defendants involved in the occupation of Malheur national wildlife refuge in southeast Oregon earlier this year.

Despite the defendants’ guilty pleas and direction from the judge on the letter of the law, the jury found leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy not guilty of the government’s charge: conspiracy to impede federal officers by force, threat or intimidation. Bundy’s other co-defendants — Jeff Banta, Shawna Cox, David Fry, Kenneth Medenbach and Neil Wampler — have been found not guilty as well.

Larry sits down with Ryan Hass, News Content Manager at Oregon Public Broadcasting, and Tung Yin, professor of law at Lewis & Clark Law School, to discuss the past and future of the Malheur Refuge case.

Professor Tung Yin explains the concept of jury nullification, which occurs when a jury returns a verdict of “Not Guilty” despite its belief that the defendant is guilty of the violation charged. Throughout history, jury nullification appears when the government has tried to enforce unpopular laws, examples include violation of fugitive slave laws and alcohol control laws.

Guests: 

Ryan Hass, News Content Manager at Oregon Public Broadcasting and was in court for yesterday’s verdict

Tung Yin, professor of law at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon