Friday, October 14, 2016

Oregon standoff defendant Shawna Cox takes stand, plays her video of arrest

Oregon standoff defendant Shawna Cox testified Thursday that she didn't emerge immediately from Robert "LaVoy" Finicum's truck when police stopped them Jan. 26 on U.S. 395 because she was afraid of getting shot. Cox, the fourth of seven defendants to take the stand in the federal conspiracy trial, became emotional as her standby lawyer Tiffany Harris played the video that Cox took of the felony traffic stop as she sat in the back seat. Harris showed the footage after the judge cautioned that it could be "quite prejudicial'' to both Cox and co-defendant Ryan Bundy with the risk of "underscoring to the jury that the defendants pick and choose which laws they want to follow.'' The video captured Cox telling Finicum to "gun it, gun it'' as he sped away from officers at the initial stop. That day, authorities tried to stop Finicum's truck and a Jeep with Ammon Bundy as they headed away from their occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns to a community meeting in John Day. Ammon Bundy surrendered immediately along with his bodyguard, Brian Cavalier. Ryan Payne, another organizer of the occupation who was in the front passenger seat of Finicum's truck, got out before Finicum drove off. Finicum, the refuge takeover's spokesman, ended up crashing into a snowbank at a roadblock up the highway and was fatally shot by state police after he got out. Police said Fincium reached three times for the inside of his jacket, where he had a loaded 9mm handgun. Just before they were first stopped, Cox said she noticed a line of unmarked cars to the right as they were driving north on the highway and then saw flashing lights. She said she heard Payne remark, "It's a setup'' and Finicum say, "It's an ambush.'' Once Finicum stopped the truck, she said, Payne rolled down his window and thrust both of his hands out, his palms showing. Suddenly, she testified, she saw a red laser and heard a shot. "He jumped back in. That freaked us out. It was very frightening,'' Cox said. "It made no sense to me.'' Payne eventually stepped out of the truck and yelled there were women inside. Officers at the scene said the women should come out, Cox testified. Asked by her standby lawyer why she didn't leave then, Cox said she asked Victoria Sharp, who was sitting next to her in the back seat, what she wanted to do. "She said, 'I'm not getting out. They just shot at us.' I'm not going out either,'' Cox testified. "I have a lot of children and my maternal instinct is to protect them. I wasn't about to leave her in that vehicle.'' Cox said she was perplexed why no officers approached Finicum's driver's window and asked for his license or explained the reason for the stop. Harris asked, "Have you ever before in your life contemplated driving away from an officer?'' "Never,'' Cox responded. Of Finicum's truck, Cox said, "That was our secure spot. We were afraid to get out. ... We felt like we were pinned down. We felt like we were going to all be killed. In fact, we were sure we were all in a death trap.'' Co-defendant Kenneth Medenbach stood to ask Cox a question but was quickly shut down by U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown. He began: "Are you aware the jury has power to weigh ...'' "Stop!'' the judge demanded. "I'm not going to let a defendant ask any questions about jury nullification.'' "And the corruption continues,'' Medenbach added. The judge asked if he had any other questions to ask, and he didn't. During a brief cross-examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Gabriel stopped the video that Cox took and showed a screenshot of Ryan Bundy, who was in the back left side passenger seat of Finicum's truck, holding a revolver in his right hand as he hunkered down. Gabriel asked Cox if her video was a fair and accurate representation of what took place. She said yes. And, in fact, Ryan Bundy had a revolver, Gabriel pointed out. "I have no idea,'' Cox said. "I never saw a gun.''...more

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