May 17, 1997 in City
Double Jeopardy, Says Barbee Accused Bank Robber, Bomber Says Mistrial Exonerates Him
Accused terrorist Charles Barbee is trying to convince a federal judge that it would be double jeopardy to put him through another trial for bank robberies and bombings.
Barbee, formerly of Sandpoint, is scheduled to stand trial June 23 in U.S. District Court in Spokane with Robert Berry, Verne Jay Merrell and Brian Ratigan.
Barbee, 45, said he was “put in jeopardy” the first time in April when he, Berry, 43, and Merrell, 51, stood trial on bank robbery, bombing and firearms charges tied to crimes last year in the Spokane Valley.
Ratigan, 38, was arrested midway through the trial and charged only with the July 12 bank robbery and bombing at a Planned Parenthood clinic.
A jury couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict but favored conviction 11-1. Because of the impasse, a mistrial was declared by U.S. District Court Judge Frem Nielsen.
“I have faced the full potential of conviction,” Barbee said at a court hearing Friday.
He told the judge that the Constitution protects citizens from excesses of government.
“The double-jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution is a restriction on the government to prevent retrial,” Barbee said.
“I have gone up against the most powerful organization in the world today,” and it would be unconstitutional to have to do so again, he said.
After he read the document he wrote in jail, Barbee told the court he will have his double-jeopardy argument typed and filed as a formal defense motion.
“That was well-presented, Mr. Barbee,” the judge told him.
Nielsen is expected to rule on Barbee’s motion on June 2 when he is scheduled to decide on two other defense requests.
Defense attorneys want the trial moved elsewhere, and they want Ratigan tried separately from the other three defendants.
Merrell’s attorney, Frank Conklin, also wants his client tried separately. Ratigan’s attorney, Terry Ryan, argued that his client isn’t charged with exactly the same charges as the other three men and wasn’t involved in the first trial.
Ratigan also may want to call the other three men as witnesses, and that may not be possible if all four stand trial together, Ryan said.
Federal defender Roger Peven, who represents Barbee, told the judge that he believes it will be impossible to get an impartial jury because of extensive media coverage.
Particularly troubling, Peven told the court, are news accounts that disclosed only one juror in the first trial opposed convicting the trio.
The judge suggested Friday that he likely won’t grant defense requests for separate trials or to move the trial elsewhere.
“The general rule is that if you’re indicted together, you’re tried together,” the judge said.
The expense of holding separate trials - called “judicial economy” by appeals courts - also will be part of the judge’s ultimate decision. The first trial cost an estimated $327,000.