Senate's Ruby Ridge Report Confirms: Law Enforcement Practices, Expansion Threaten Constitutional Freedoms
Washington, DC (December 21, 1995) -- "Growing and increasingly powerful law enforcement agencies urgently require increased oversight," said Robert Fogelnest, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), in response to the report released today by the Senate subcommittee investigating the August, 1992 tragedy at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.
"How many more innocent Americans need to get shot to death as a result of 'mistakes and misinformation' by law enforcement authorities," Fogelnest asked? "How many deaths does it take before too many people have died?"
"The subcommittee's unanimous conclusions reflect concerns that the nation's criminal defense lawyers have been expressing for some time now," he said, referring to the report of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Government Information. The subcommittee concluded that:
- the ATF informant was virtually untrained regarding entrapment, and his conduct in getting Randy Weaver to sell two illegal shotguns was, if not the outright entrapment of an innocent citizen, perilously close to entrapment;
- policies of having informants' compensation determined only after trial are troubling because of their obvious potential for inducing perjury and other perversions of the criminal justice system;
- internal reviews of the Ruby Ridge events by law enforcement agencies were seriously flawed, marred by internal bias to justify agency conduct and the refusal to admit mistakes;
- the improper attitude of the U.S. Attorney was primarily responsible for inadequate attention being given to clear opportunities to effect Weaver's arrest by non-confrontational means;
- the "rules of engagement" and the FBI sniper's gunshot that killed Vicki Weaver were in violation of the Constitution.
"The Senate panel is right on the mark in saying that 'reestablishing the bond of trust between Americans and our law enforcement agencies must begin with an honest accounting by those in government,'" Fogelnest, a New York City attorney, added. "We continue to urge congressional leaders to hold hearings to comprehensively examine law enforcement abuses. And we implore them not to pass any new legislation -- like so-called 'antiterrorism' legislation that may come to the House floor as early as January -- that confers still greater powers on the very agencies at fault in the Ruby Ridge case and numerous other cases."