Scott Drexler Testifies in Bunkerville Retrial
by Shari Dovale
Last week showed mayhem in the Judge Gloria Navarro’s courtroom in Las Vegas. The defense attempted to call defendant Eric Parker to the witness stand to testify in his own defense.
The prosecution showed their paranoia when they began their objections nearly immediately. Judge Navarro had laid out guidelines for Parker’s testimony that focused on not allowing the Federal agents to be placed in a bad light. She has insisted that there is no self-defense allowed when the ‘victim’ is a federal agent or law enforcement officer. She claims there is no evidence that these agents used excessive force on April 12, 2014.
However, though she has allowed these agents to cry on the witness stand to emphasize their fear of the protesters, she has put her iron fist down about the defendants doing the same. Navarro allowed the prosecution to object to Parker using the words “snipers” and the “First Amendment Zone”.
Jesse Marchese, Parker’s attorney, asked him a question which went directly to refuting the testimony of Ranger Alexandra Burke. She had claimed that she saw Parker point his weapon directly at her, however, she had said that she was to his left, up near the generator near the command post.
Parker was asked which direction he was focusing on while he was on the bridge. He responded that he was looking forward at the people in the wash, and then up and to the right. He did not say that he was looking at the snipers that were up on the mesa, but objections rang through the courtroom at the possibility that he might.
This gave Navarro the excuse she needed to remove Parker from the witness stand and strike his entire testimony from the official record. This all took place last Thursday.
Monday morning brought several motions, including a request for sanctions from the prosecution. The defense also filed a motion for mistrial, which Navarro promptly denied.
The government claimed that the attorneys for Parker, Drexler and Stewart have violated the court’s orders to not include evidence for jury nullification repeatedly, including the closing arguments Mr. Leventhal presented in the previous trial.
The prosecution is stretching the limits with this motion for sanctions and have demanded they be allowed to preview, verbatim, each of the three closing arguments before they are presented.
Todd Leventhal, attorney for Scott Drexler, rose to the challenge and argued that before sanctions can take place, there must be a contempt charge, which will absolutely require these proceedings to be halted while the three attorneys hire attorneys for themselves.
This seemed to alarm Judge Navarro and she clearly stated that she would not impose sanctions on anyone at that time. However, during the morning’s arguments, Navarro had to tell the defense that she thought they were ‘showboating’ with their attempts to mislead the jury into nullification, and she was finding it very offensive.
Her ideas of misleading the jury focus on the defense wanting to actually defend themselves. She has denied them every available defense including self-defense, defense of others, and provocation by the government. She has said that the first and second amendments are not valid defenses.
The only defense she is allowing them is “mere presence” which means that someone who just happens to be at a crime scene isn’t guilty of the crime. This, of course, does not apply to the defendants, therefore, she is setting them up for a guaranteed conviction.
AUSA Myhre did ask for defendant Scott Drexler to proffer his testimony without the jury present, and this created a new round of arguments. Navarro eventually ruled that Drexler would not have to preview his testimony. Drexler chose to testify in front of the jury today.
Drexler took the witness stand after lunch.
He did very well during his testimony, which means that he did not give Navarro a reason to remove him and strike it from the record.
Drexler is from Challis, Idaho, town of about a thousand people. He did not know any of the protesters from Bunkerville before April 12, 2014, except for Eric Parker. They decided to go down to protest, though Drexler was not allowed to say how he learned of the protest or why he wanted to go.
He was asked about Sugar Pine Mine in Oregon during his testimony, but the prosecution immediately objected questioning the relevance of this information. Remember, the prosecution brought this evidence into the trial, now they are questioning it’s relevance.
When Drexler mentioned the helicopters at Bunkerville, the same relevance objections came from the them. Again, all evidence has been entered by the prosecution. This is the same prosecution team that thought it relevant to link the defendants to Timothy McVeigh.
Drexler was able to say that he was afraid that the government was going to kill him. This was said twice in front of the jury. Of course, it was objected to, but Drexler was not removed from the witness stand. This was more information than Parker was allowed to say before he was removed from the witness box.
This tells me that Navarro was not on her game, seemingly due to the large numbers of people in the gallery and on the courthouse steps, or she is really gunning for Parker.
The jury questions were interesting. There were about a dozen jurors that submitted questions, however, Navarro would not allow most of their questions to be asked, whether because she felt they were not relevant or because she felt it was information that had already been discussed.
This was never the standard for the government’s witnesses. The jury was allowed to ask any question they wanted. It ended up being about 4 questions that she allowed to be presented to Drexler.
Judge Navarro seems afraid to the point of paranoia concerning the possibility of Jury Nullification. She continuously states it in court, on the record, that the defense is going for that possibility. She does not want the jury to know about it, or to consider it.
A rally was held outside the courthouse on Monday that included a couple of hundred people that had traveled from various parts of the country. The ‘mere presence’ of these protesters seem to get under the skin of the Chief Judge.
At one point, Navarro accused the defense attorneys of taking part in a ‘charade’ of inciting the community to believe that the prosecution is conspiring against the defendants.
All this during a trial in which the defendants are on trial for conspiracy.
The defense has no other witnesses they are allowed to present. Closing arguments will begin Tuesday.
Cover photo credit: David Fleeman, Facebook