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Jury sends strong message to prosecutors: prove your case

Not guilty does not necessarily mean innocent, nor does it have to strongly point to innocence in a court of law.

That was the bottom-line point conveyed by a jury member in a recent criminal case leading to an outcome described by the Washington Post as "stunning."

Many of our readers across North Carolina likely know a bit about that case, given its drama and high-profile dissemination in national media outlets.

Its gist: More than a score of gun-carrying protestors entered a federal bird sanctuary in Oregon and held authorities at bay for a prolonged period. Those individuals (many who ultimately ended up as defendants in a federal court) termed their action a lawful response to unconstitutional land grabs by the federal government.

Even though their motives and statements in court did not impress the jury, all 12 members of that body acquitted every defendant in the case, finding them not guilty on a charge of conspiracy to impede federal officials.

The above-cited juror stated that the reason why centrally related to prosecutorial arrogance and the simple fact that government lawyers just did not prove their case. The jury was asked to evaluate whether the defendants had come together to commit an illegal act, with the prosecution having the job of sufficiently convincing them.

Federal lawyers failed in that goal.

"It seemed this basic, high standard of proof was lost upon the prosecution throughout," said the juror.

In fact, he stated that members on the jury panel were irritated by the prosecution's manner and case presentation, notably the attempt to convince jurors to simply infer a conspiracy in the absence of any proof being offered to support the charge.

The case -- which is certainly galling to prosecutors in its aftermath -- makes a centrally instructive point, namely, that state and/or federal actors seeking to convict a criminal defendant must meet their burden of proof in court.

A proven criminal defense attorney will insist that they do.

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