The jury selection process began Wednesday for the trial of the Bundy brothers and their co-defendants, but clothing selection has been just as big of an issue.
The U.S. Marshall’s Service has rules about certain clothing items they won’t allow at the trial. On August 27 they sent an email, banning: “Ties, Belts, Handkerchiefs, Cuff Links, Steel-toed boots/shoes, shoe laces, shirt tie-down straps, safety pins, and shirt pocket pen protectors.”
Ammon Bundy decided to wear non-steel toe boots, but that was shot down as well.
It’s all for “safety precautions,” claims Barbara Alfono, the deputy U.S. Marshall in charge of the Bundy trial. After all, the defendants “might use the banned items as weapons.”
Ammon Bundy’s co-counsel J. Morgan Philpot said since his client is innocent until proven guilty, he should be permitted to wear what he chooses. “These men are cowboys, and given that the jury will be assessing their authenticity and credibility, they should be able to present themselves to the jury in that manner.”
Slip-on shoes and loafers are something they’ve never worn before.
On Wednesday, The Oregonian reported that Ammon wore a grey suit with a white dress shirt, and his brother Ryan Bundy was dressed in blue jeans, a brown leather vest over a white dress shirt, and black loafers.
Co-defendant David Fry wore a blue sweater to court and didn’t challenge the dress restrictions.
Ethan Knight, Assistant U.S. Attorney, encouraged the court to uphold the U.S. Marshall Service restrictions on the dress code, saying no prejudice would arise from it.
Philpot argued that the dress code is comical – especially the urban loafers and white tennis socks – and could also affect how the jury perceives the defendants.
U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown stepped away from her bench to inspect Ammon and Ryan’s attire and declared they were dressed better than most people in the building and said she didn’t find it comical at all.
Ryan Bundy told the judge, “I’m accustomed to boots and a belt.”
“There has not been any showing that these men are dressed any different from any other defendant,” the judge proclaimed. “Let’s get going, folks. You’re wasting time,” she added.
Tiffany Harris, a defense attorney and standby counsel for co-defendant Shawna Cox, stood in support of the Bundys, saying “The public saw them appearing emblematic of a certain rural culture.”
No matter, Judge Brown would not budge, saying most defendants who appeared before her in court were “not nearly as well dressed” as these men. Case closed.
The Oregonian reported that Ammon Bundy’s lawyer, Marcus Mumford, brought up another objection just as the judge was set to bring in potential jurors.
Mumford noted the increased security outside the federal courthouse, saying it could prejudice jurors against the defendants.
Brown claimed that “Our lives have been threatened.” But when Mumford asked where the threats came from, she told him she didn’t know, and that she wasn’t about to second-guess the security measures put in place by the U.S. Marshalls Service, saying it was for the protection of everyone.
Of the seven defendants on trial, the Bundy brothers and David Fry are the only ones who are still being held in custody.
The jury selection process is expected to continue through the end of this week, and opening statements are reportedly set to begin next Tuesday.
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