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United States v. Bundy

United States District Court, D. Nevada

October 23, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CLIVEN D. BUNDY et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          GLORIA M. NAVARRO, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is the Motion in Limine (“MIL”), (ECF No. 2514), filed by the Government to preclude evidence that is irrelevant and offered in support of jury nullification. Defendants Cliven D. Bundy (“Cliven Bundy”) and Ryan W. Payne (“Payne”) filed timely Responses. (ECF Nos. 2555, 2568).[1] Co-defendants Eric J. Parker (“Parker”) and Ammon E. Bundy filed Motions for Joinder to the Responses. (ECF Nos. 2651, 2676). The Government filed a Reply. (ECF No. 2699). For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the Government's MIL.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On March 2, 2016, a federal grand jury sitting in the District of Nevada returned a Superseding Indictment charging nineteen defendants with sixteen counts related to a confrontation on April 12, 2014, with Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) Officers in Bunkerville, Nevada. (ECF No. 27).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         In general, “[t]he court must decide any preliminary question about whether . . . evidence is admissible.” Fed.R.Evid. 104(a). In order to satisfy the burden of proof for Federal Rule of Evidence 104(a), a party must show that the requirements for admissibility are met by a preponderance of the evidence. See Bourjaily v. United States, 483 U.S. 171, 175-76 (1987) (“We have traditionally required that these matters [regarding admissibility determinations that hinge on preliminary factual questions] be established by a preponderance of proof.”).

         “Although the [Federal Rules of Evidence] do not explicitly authorize in limine rulings, the practice has developed pursuant to the district court's inherent authority to manage the course of trials.” Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984) (citing Fed.R.Evid. 103(c)). In limine rulings “are not binding on the trial judge, and the judge may always change his mind during the course of a trial.” Ohler v. United States, 529 U.S. 753, 758 n.3 (2000); see also Luce, 469 U.S. at 41 (noting that in limine rulings are always “subject to change, ” especially if the evidence unfolds in an unanticipated manner).

         III. DISCUSSION

         In the instant MIL, the Government seeks to preclude Defendants from addressing or eliciting “information or argument that: portrays or implies that the law enforcement officers acted unlawfully or unethically during impoundment operations; or that the actions of the defendants were justified by the U.S. Constitution or other law” because they are irrelevant and offered in support of jury nullification. (Gov't. Mot. 1:23-2:3, ECF No. 2514). Specifically, the Government seeks to preclude the following:

1. Self-defense, defense of others, or defense of property, justification, necessity arguments which have no foundation in the law;
2. Third-party/lay person testimony or opinion about the level of force displayed or used by law enforcement officers during impoundment operations, including operations on April 6, 9, and 12, 2014;
3. Opinions/public statements of Governor Brian Sandoval of April 8, 2014, and/or opinions registered by other political office holders or opinion leaders about BLM impoundment operations;
4. Allegations of workplace misconduct by the SAC of the impoundment, or regarding those who worked for, or with, him.
5. Allegations that officers connected with the impoundment acted unethically or improperly by the way they were dressed or equipped during the impoundment, or that they improperly shredded documents during or after impoundment operations;
6. References to supposed mistreatment of cattle during the impoundment operations;
7. Legal arguments, beliefs, explanations, or opinions that the federal government does not own the land or have legal authority or jurisdiction over public lands where impoundment operations were conducted, or that the land was or is otherwise owned by the State of Nevada;
8. Legal arguments, beliefs, explanations, or opinions regarding infringement on First and Second Amendment ...

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