The Charges and Verdicts
(Weaver was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined $10,000.)
|CHARGE||DEFENDANTS CHARGED||POSSIBLE PUNISHMENT||JURY VERDICT|
|First Degree Murder||Weaver and Harris||Life imprisonment||Not Guilty|
|Assaulting and Resisting
|Weaver and Harris||10 years||Not Guilty|
Conspiracy to Provoke a Violent Confrontation
|Weaver and Harris||5 years||Not Guilty|
|Making Illegal Firearms||Weaver||5 years||Not Guilty|
|Failure to Appear in Court||Weaver||5 years||Guilty|
|Committing Crimes While on Pretrial Release||Weaver||10 years||Guilty|
|Using A Firearm to Commit a Violent Crime||Weaver||5 years||Not Guilty|
|Harboring a Fugitive||Harris||5 years||Not Guilty|
Defense Strategy: Selected Points
Gerry Spence, lead attorney for Randy Weaver
David Nevin, lead attorney for Kevin Harris
1. Take the offensive. Change public perceptions by releasing to the press statements framing the case as about freedom of expression and freedom of religious beliefs. Draft a statement for Weaver expressing his hope and belief that he will get a fair trial, and suggesting that the real crime at Ruby Ridge was the murder of his wife and child.
2. Be pleased when a grand jury hands down a broad conspiracy indictment that will allow the defense to introduce evidence its own evidence of Randy Weaver's beliefs and further the goal of turning the case into one about freedom of religion.
3. Be even more pleased when discovery documents show contradictions in what marshals heard or saw at the time of the shoot-out and reveal that the FBI changed its normal rules of engagement at Ruby Ridge.
4. Find a way to explain Harris's killing of Bill Degan as a response to shots being fired at his friend, Sammy Weaver.
5. Suggest that the first shot of the day killed the dog, Striker, setting off Sammy and causing the whole tragic chain of events. Moreover, try to show that the marshals entered the property that day intending to kill the dog.
6. Use your opening statement for Weaver to show the jury you like and respect Weaver. Paint Weaver as a misunderstood independent thinker who mainly wanted to be left alone. Suggest that the whole unfortunate series of events started with a misguided effort to entrap Weaver on a firearms charges. Remind the jury that Weaver lost his only son and his wife on Ruby Ridge that August. Let the jury see your emotions. Be real.
7. When marshals testify, raise questions about why they carried heavy machine guns that day. Make a marshal put on his camouflage clothing, his net mask, his pack, his machine gun, and have him stand in front of the jury, so they can understand how such a sight might have created fear in Kevin Harris. Raise questions about the real reason the dog was shot.
8. Raise questions about the credibility of the testimony of undercover agent Fadeley by getting him to testify that his government pay depended in part on securing a conviction of Weaver.
9. Try to trivialize the threatening nature of Vicki's letters to government officials by joking about some of the overblown or off-the-wall language the letters contain.
10. Whenever possible, secure testimony suggesting the Weavers, despite their strong beliefs, were decent people.
11. Expose the rules of engagement presumably in force at Ruby Ridge and try to get the jury incensed about the lack of respect for life that the revised rules arguably reflects.
12. Get the sniper Horiuchi to admit he intended to kill Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris. Get him to admit that he was aware of the possibility that someone--a mother or child--could have been behind the door when he fired his fatal shot. Make the jury contemplate the horror inside the cabin that must have followed Vicki's killing.
13. Whenever possible, suggest inconsistencies between the finding of ballistics and forensic experts and the earlier testimony of marshals.
14. In the end, present your case through the prosecution's own witnesses. Don't put Sara on the stand (too honest and likely to shock the jury with her admissions) or Randy Weaver (too many skeletons in closet of extremist beliefs and intransigent actions).
15. In the closing argument for Harris, stress that he shot out of self-defense and out of a desire to protect Sammy.
16. In the closing argument for Weaver, tell the jury this is an important case and that they should send a message to the government that it should be more respectful of life and take every precaution to avoid its loss. Portray government agents, not Weaver, as the real murderers. Remind the jury of the heavy price Randy has already paid. And, mostly, "be real"--let the jury see how much you care about what happens to your client.