If you’ve never been involved in the federal justice system, you’d probably be shocked by “the way we do things” ‒ as the process’s denizens call it.
At the accused’s arraignment, where they officially hear their charges brought by the prosecution before the court:
- First of all, the defendant has (and gets) no idea of the prosecution’s evidence, which provides little-to-no ability to mount, or even strategize an appropriate defense. If the accused asks for a “speedy trial” (e., one held within 90 days of arraignment ‒ which is every citizen’s constitutional right), they’d have to proceed blindly, with little time to review whatever evidence the prosecution might have.
- Then, there is the attitude of the judge. Many seem to get angry if the accused forces the court to rearrange its ‘finely-tuned’ schedule (already coordinated, set, and convenient for the judge and prosecution) ‒ just to accommodate the constitutional rights of the accused.
These first two realities become significant challenges to establishing any proper defense. So, most feel – and are so-advised – to waive their constitutional right to a speedy trial, because the prosecution does not even have to share (and will probably not have shared) its evidence with the defense before the arraignment.
- Finally, and often overlooked, is the sad fact that once the accused waives that right, it is gone forever, and can never be asserted again as the case proceeds to trial and on to sentencing (if found guilty).
The consequence: the accused becomes completely subject to the mercy of the system as to when they may ever see a jury ‒ and the hardship of lengthy incarceration alone may be the prosecution’s strategy to subdue their pleas to ‘a deal’ or even to just plead ‘guilty.’
Waiving one’s right to a speedy trial means it may take months ‒ or even years ‒ before getting to court. And, ironically, the accused actually lose their freedom while waiting for the trial date – even if they are eventually found at trial to be innocent in the eyes of the law. [The jury actually finds: ‘not-guilty;’ because, the court never finds anyone to be ‘innocent’ of anything – just ‘not guilty’ of the charge(s) ‒ whether the alleged act ever actually happened, or not – or whether, in fact, the alleged act was even a crime!]
The case of the Bundy 19 ‒ the men charged by the United States Justice Department with domestic terrorism and whose constitutional rights to a speedy trial were stripped away by “the way we do things” ‒ provides a good example:
From the date of what the government (and media) called the “Standoff” on April 12, 2014, to their incarceration in February 2016, they remained free. But ‘free’ is a relative term. During those 22 months, the Federal government investigated them, their travel was restricted, and they were put them on the ‘no-fly’ list – but, they were neither picked up, arrested, nor formally charged with anything.
This criminal case began when Cliven Bundy, for whom the Bundy 19 were nicknamed, rose to national prominence in 2014 while in civil confrontation with government officials over: their authority on Nevada public land, the federal government’s land-use policies, their unequal implementation in the West, their two decades of failing to perform their statutory responsibilities by declining in 1993 to renew his permit for cattle grazing on Bureau of Land Management-administered public lands adjacent to his ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada, and what he contended was a an unlawful seizure of his cattle by the BLM.
The members of the Bundy 19 knew they were being investigated, watched, and followed; but never fled nor committed any crime.
Finally arrested in 2016 ‒ in conjunction with a similar Federal misadventure in Oregon ‒ the U.S. Prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre, contended (fantasized?) in his very impassioned plea to the judge for their pretrial incarceration for the 2014 “Standoff,” that Cliven would, in effect, be a “flight risk;” because, he would return to his ranch and surround himself with militia, thereby establishing a refuge that “we’ll never get him out of.” He characterized the rest of the Bundy 19 also to be similarly a “danger to the public” and, a such, also posing a similar “flight risk.”
But there is much more to the story of Cliven Bundy and the Bundy 19…so stay tuned.
Learn more about Cliven Bundy: American Terrorist Patriot or get your book copy here.
About Michael Stickler
Mike is an author, radio host, ex-felon, and a highly sought after motivational speaker. His best-selling book, A Journey to Generosity, is widely acclaimed throughout the Christian community. He is the publisher of Generous Living Magazine and writes for the Christian Post, 'A Generous Life' column. (MikeStickler.com)