Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Two More Jurors Speak Out After Judge Robert Bryan Sentences Alaska Militiaman Coleman Barney To Five Years Imprisonment

On September 24th, 2012, U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan sentenced Coleman Barney to five years in prison, with credit given for time already served, after Barney was convicted of conspiracy to possess unregistered silencers and possessing an unregistered destructive device in June 2012. Since he's been incarcerated since March 2011, this means Barney only gets three-and-a-half years additional time. He would be free no later than March 2016, with an earlier release possible for accumulated good time. Barney's defense attorney Tim Dooley said he will appeal, but Dooley is also one of 12 nominees submitted to Gov. Sean Parnell to fill a vacancy on the Alaska Superior Court; if he's selected, he'll have to turn Barney's defense over to another lawyer.

NOTE: Jeanne Devon was present at the sentencing, and posted a highly-detailed account of the proceedings on Mudflats.

After the verdict was rendered in June, one juror spoke out immediately afterward. That juror wrote in part, "Personally, I truly felt (along with others on the jury)that Coleman Barney would never have killed anybody unless in self-defense or defending his family. The deadlock on his conspiracy to murder charge was the result. The charges that resulted in convictions were proven by the testimony and evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, and I can sleep well with our decisions". However, the comments section to both the Anchorage Daily News and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner stories have now attracted feedback from two more people who served on the jury which convicted Barney:

David Oberg September 25th 1:14 P.M (Anchorage Daily News):
I commend Judge Bryan for imposing a compassionate sentence commensurate with the crimes for which Coleman Barney was convicted. As a juror in the case, I was disturbed by the prosecution's sentencing document in which he was characterized as a cold-blooded killer and called for a 10-year sentence. However, I am a bit disappointed in Barney and his wife for their assertion that he is innocent. While I was not totally comfortable with the government informant's role in procuring the silenced pistols, there can be no doubt that he did express a desire to possess one and took steps to get it, with the full understanding that it would be unregistered and therefore illegal. It is also a fact, established by evidence and testimony, that he on at least one occasion had in his possession an "illegal unregistered destructive device" in the form of a hornet's nest round inserted into a 37mm launcher. I don't think he knew it was illegal, but ignorance does not excuse him from the law. I fully expected Coleman and his family to accept that he had made some bad decisions, and would accept the consequences of those decisions. It pains me that they haven't.

alaskanflyer September 25th 13 Hours Ago (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner):
A fair sentence for a good man who made some bad decisions supporting a "friend". As a juror in the case it was clear to me that Coleman Barney would never harm another except in lawful self-defense. My faith in Judge Bryan's wisdom has been justified.

alaskanflyer September 25th 1 Hour Ago (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner):
I was convinced by both the evidence presented and testimony that, had the government not intervened, two of the defendants would have killed somebody unlawfully at some time in the future given the right circumstances. The convictions were NOT about what the defendants SAID. They were for what the defendants DID to further what they had said. Saying you are going to do something illegal is protected (within limits)by the Constitution, but amassing illegal weapons (Sten gun, grenades, etc.)and making plans to actually DO it is a crime.

alaskanflyer September 25th 1 Hour Ago (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner):
Actually, he never took possession of a silencer (the conviction was for "conspiracy to possess an unregistered silencer")and he never possessed or indicated that he wanted to possess a hand grenade. We also convicted him for possession of an "unregistered destructive device", an allegation clearly and convincingly proved by both evidence and testimony.

The feedback certainly explains why the jury did not convict Barney on conspiracy to murder. The only troubling aspect is David Oberg's assertion that ignorance of the law is no defense. This is the party line traditionally sold to all jurors, and in crimes against persons and property, it is valid for the most part, since people of sound mind clearly know the definitions of theft, robbery, rape, premeditated murder, etc.

However, when it comes to crimes against law, where there is no person or property specifically victimized, ignorance of the law can be a defense. How many people out there know the difference between a legal weapon and an illegal weapon? How many people know the extent to which prosecutors can choose to apply conspiracy or obstruction of justice laws? As a matter of fact, there is one law against "hindering prosecution" with which I doubt 10 percent of the population is familiar. Under some circumstances, I will consider ignorance of the law to be a valid defense. That, of course, is known as "jury nullification", and the Fully Informed Jury Association website provides more information on this tactic, which must be used very sparingly.

For those who would like to write to Coleman Barney, Vinelink indicates he's being held at the older wing of the Anchorage Correctional Complex, once known as Cook Inlet Pre-Trial. Be advised that now that he's been sentenced, he could be moved at any time without warning, although they have to find a place for him at a federal institution first:

Coleman L. Barney
ID: 568595
1300 East 4th Avenue
Anchorage, AK 99501

Prisoners may receive through the mail correspondence, photos, money orders, cashier’s checks, and certified checks for $500 or less. No other items may be received by prisoners without pre-approval from the Superintendent. Read the other restrictions HERE.

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