A mistrial has been declared in the case against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy after it was determined the prosecution was guilty of unlawful suppression of evidence, a violation of Bundy’s constitutional rights.
Rancher vs the feds
Cliven Bundy is a cattle Rancher residing in Clark County Nevada with ties to many local families throughout southern Utah. Bundy has been in a long-standing disagreement with the federal government over the right to have his cattle graze on public land, which is family had been doing for generations. The feds wanted to require a permit and collect yearly grazing fees plus arrears while Bundy claimed requiring a fee for use of the land was erroneous since the land belonged to the state. Over twenty years of debating this right ended when the BLM closed off over 140,000 acres of land and confiscated any trespassing livestock found roaming within the off-limits acreage. Bundy along with friends and family protested the capture of the cattle and after heated negotiations regained control of the livestock. Bundy continued his family traditions of grazing his cattle on public lands.
Arrested on federal charges
Almost two years after the Nevada cattle standoff, Bundy travelled to Oregon where his sons and others had taken over control of a vacant ranger station at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in support of two local ranchers charged with federal arson while protecting their property. On route to that scene however, Bundy was apprehended at the airport and arrested on multiple federal charges related to the Nevada Cattle Standoff. Some of the charges include conspiracy, assault on a federal officer, threatening an officer, as well as firearms charges. His sons and another individual were also arrested for their involvement in both the Nevada and Oregon standoffs. The Bundy sons and others involved in the Oregon standoff went to trial for that incident and were acquitted by a jury of all federal charges. They still faced charges for their involvement in Nevada alongside their father Cliven Bundy. This court experience in Nevada turned out to be very different from the one in Oregon however.
Unlawful Suppression of evidence
During the court proceedings for the Bundy clan in Nevada, the defense discovered multiple items of crucial evidence obtained by the prosecution had been withheld. Suppression of evidence is defined as when a party in a trial unlawfully withholds evidence that could be useful in exonerating the defendant(s) in the case. Some of the evidence items withheld from the defense included video surveillance of Cliven Bundy’s home as well as confirmation on the presence of snipers surrounding the Nevada cattle incident, increasing tensions. The feds denied allegations of unlawful suppression of evidence until proof emerged and they were forced to recant their omissions, claiming their careless handling of evidence was not intentional. The defense, not satisfied that the federal government could make numerous “honest” evidence mistakes in a federal trial claimed six violations to the Brady Rule. The judge agreed and declared a mistrial due to unlawful suppression of evidence or a violation of due process which is a constitutional right.
The Brady Rule
The Bundy family and another man were released on all charges thanks to the 1963 Brady v. Maryland case which was monumental in ensuring all exculpatory evidence, or evidence that might be helpful to the defense, is shared by prosecutors. In the case of Brady, prosecutors had obtained a written confession to a murder by another individual, yet suppressed that evidence and tried Brady of the murder as well. Once the courts realized there was evidence that could have exonerated the defendant of murder charges, they declared his due process rights had been violated and thus the Brady Rule was born. The Brady Rule ensures the due process law protected by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution are withheld and that no state of federal government shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”. Due process is defined as by the United States Courts as “the constitutional guarantee that a defendant will receive a fair and impartial trial.” Anyone who feels they are facing a trial with an unfair advantage due to due process violations should consult with a criminal defense attorney who will ensure all evidence vital to one’s defense is unveiled..