Opening statements begin Tuesday for the seven people accused of conspiring to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Here’s what to expect:
The government and defense teams will explain to the jury how the evidence supports their case. The Department of Justice has charged Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan and five others with conspiring to occupy the wildlife refuge near Burns. Federal prosecutors have said the defendants prevented federal employees who worked at the refuge from doing their jobs though force, intimidation and threats.
Prosecutors will likely argue in opening statements that the defendants engaged in a well thought out and coordinated effort to commit a crime and that their actions and presence of firearms fall outside protections granted under the U.S. Constitution.
Based on months of pretrial hearings, the defense is expected to say their clients did not engage in a conspiracy. Rather, what happened at the refuge was a political protest targeting government overreach. Defendants believe they didn’t intimidate anyone and that their actions are protected by the First and Second Amendments.
Three of the defendants — Ryan Bundy, Shawna Cox and Kenneth Medenbach — are acting as their own defense lawyers during the trial.
Listen to a Q&A between Morning Edition host Geoff Norcross and OPB reporter Conrad Wilson on the start of the trial.