Judge throws out Ruby Ridge charges
October 2, 1997
Web posted at: 8:36 p.m. EDT (0036 GMT)
BONNERS FERRY, Idaho (CNN) -- An Idaho judge dismissed a state murder charge against a man accused of killing a federal agent in the Ruby Ridge shootout, saying he can't be tried again after his acquittal of murder in federal court.
Idaho Magistrate Judge Quentin Harden ruled Thursday that the charge against Kevin Harris violate a state law barring prosecution of someone who faced the same charges in another "state, territory or country."
Prosecutor Denise Woodbury, who charged Harris and FBI marksman Lon Horiuchi in state court in August, had argued that the state double-jeopardy law was meant to cover prosecutions in other countries, not the United States.
"I find that (Idaho law) bars further prosecution of Kevin
Harris for the acts set forth ... in the complaint in this
case," Harden said.
"To rule that the courts of the United States of America do not come under 'another state, territory, or country' would be an anomalous result -- giving more credence to the courts of another country than to the courts of our own nation," Harden wrote.
Harris, 29, of Republic, Washington, was accused in the shooting death of deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan and of shooting at another agent in the August 21, 1992, shootout that precipitated an 11-day siege at the cabin of white separatist Randy Weaver.
A friend of Weaver's, Harris was staying at the cabin during the shootout and was wounded by an FBI sniper's bullet. Weaver's 14-year-old son, Sam, was killed in the gunfight. His wife, Vicki Weaver, was later shot and killed during the siege by the FBI's Horiuchi.
The shootout has become a rallying point for some groups who believe federal law enforcement has encroached too much on citizens' rights.
Weaver and Harris were tried and acquitted of federal charges in 1993.
But in August, Woodbury charged Harris with first-degree murder in Degan's death and assault with a deadly weapon against Arthur Roderick, another law enforcement officer. Harden also dismissed the assault charge.
Woodbury also charged Horiuchi with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Vicki Weaver.
Harden's ruling doesn't affect the charge against Horiuchi, who has never been tried in any court. His lawyers have indicated they will try to move his case to a federal court.
Harris was at his job as a welder when he received the news that the murder charge against him had been dismissed, said Diane Peters, his business partner at Eagle Industries.
"We were hoping what was fair and just would turn out," Peters said.
Harris himself did not return a phone call, and Woodbury declined to comment on Harden's ruling.
Reuters contributed to this report.