This continues our series of student reflections and analysis authored by our research team.
The Siege at Ruby Ridge
The purpose of the Prosecution Project is to gather data from specific cases involving felony crimes with an explicit political motivation in order to correlate and predict juridical strategy for the purpose of scholars and policy makers. When coding cases, we come across a variety of crimes. When I came across the Ruby Ridge case I was very hesitant on how it should be coded. For those unfamiliar with Ruby Ridge, it was the case that helped start a US militia movement due to an 11 day ATF shootout between U.S. Marshalls and Randall Weaver.
Prior to the shootout, U.S Secret Service and FBI had interviewed Weaver and his wife, Vicky, because they believed he was involved with the Aryan Nations. Weaver denied having any involvement but the ATF still had him set up with an undercover where Randell had illegally purchased two firearms. When he was arrested, he made bail but then failed to appear in court. During this time he had become skeptical and suspicious of the U.S. Government and vowed to fight rather than surrender. This lead to the ATF and U.S Marshals furthering an investigation and surveillance of his house. When the agents were noticed, Randalls son Sam had gone out with a gun and had shot a U.S. Marshall which prompted the shootout and siege of Ruby Ridge.
After 11 days of isolation and failure to comply, Randall Weaver surrendered.
In the court proceedings, Randall Weaver was indicted on 10 counts but was later acquitted of all charges except failure to appear in court. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and after his release, was awarded $100,000 for the loss of his son and wife. His three daughters had each received one million dollars for the loss of their brother and mother.
You may think, this case would be easy to code based on his charges but it is not. There is a great amount of detail and thought that go into coding a case for this project. Furthermore, what part of the case am I supposed to code? Was there a “physical or ideological target” since the federal agents came to his property? Was Weaver actually affiliated with the Arian Nations? If he was acquitted on all charges regarding to Ruby Ridge should I be including this case? Was his target people or property? Neither? Both? These are some of the questions that were raised when coding this particular case.
My coding partner and I have decided to include and code this case based on all of the charges he was indicted on that relate to the project. So to answer these questions in particular, I am coding the case:
- United States of America vs Randell Claude Weaver
- on the charges of First Degree Murder, Assaulting and Resisting Federal Officers, Conspiracy to Provoke a Violent Confrontation, Making Illegal Firearms, Failure to Appear in Court, Committing Crimes While on Pretrial Release, Using A Firearm to Commit a Violent Crime, etc.
I believe this is the best way to code this individual case because those charges are why The Ruby Ridge case is included in the Prosecution Project.