The podium was the same height as her, and she was wearing high heels. She picked a piece of lint form her suit jacket, looked at the jurors, and said, “Assumptions, assumptions, assumptions.”
That was the start of day one of a five day criminal trial that involved two county attorney’s, one Game and Fish Warden, one Forest Service Agent, four defendants, three defense attorneys, eight jurors, one judge, and me…the one secretary who was volunteered to help out with pretty much anything.
The question of the case was, “Who shot the sheep?”
Do you finally understand the picture at the beginning?
The story begins with a husband and wife. The wife, after fourteen years, finally drew a tag to kill a Big Horn Sheep. With the hunt, they enlisted the help of a middle aged man that had become their friend over the years through various hunts. No money was exchanged. He just wanted to help. He in turn went to another friend of his that was more familiar with sheep hunting and asked if he wanted to come along. This friend was a fine young man with a wife and a newborn child. He had helped numerous people ranging from disabled veterans to older folks achieve their lifelong hunting dreams. He agreed to help with this woman get her sheep. Once again, no money was exchanged.
They met at the designated area in the Sunlight area in Northwestern Wyoming. What they didn’t know was that there was a Forest Service Agent following them. The first day, the group found an area where they knew there was a sheep. However, the day was waning and the weather had turned for the worse. They packed out with the intent of coming back the next morning. That Forest Agent had the same intent.
The next day, the four (with the Agent following them) settled on the same ridge. The Agent set up a scope with a tripod 350 yards on a ridge behind the group. The husband and the young man disappeared. The Agent took a camera and digiscoped (that’s where they take pictures through a spotting scope) the wife and the older gentlemen the whole time they were up the ridge. In his opinion, and based on his photos, he claimed the wife never had a rifle in her hand the whole time. He claimed she sat on a log the whole time.
There was a shot at 2:10 p.m..
And that was why were there in Court.
The wife was charged with transferring her license to supposedly her husband based on the Agents pictures. They believed her husband had shot the sheep through some grand deduction theory.
Don’t take me wrong, when I first saw the State’s pictures when we took the case, my stomach sank. I thought there wasn’t a case. But let me go back to the young female defense attorney’s words, “Assumptions, assumptions, assumptions.”
The defense attorney’s went on a field trip around June of this year (after the wonderful snow had melted) and visited this kill site. They listened to the clients tell their story. They looked at the range and realized they had only seen one side of the picture.
And those pictures were distorted.
Yes, the wife didn’t use her gun. She used the younger gentlemen’s 7 mm Remington Mag that was set up for long range shots. And that Agent wasn’t diligent with his watching that day. He didn’t see the other side of the ridge she was on. He was obscured by dead trees and a fallen tree we called the snag. He didn’t see the rifle on a tripod that she diligently sat behind. She practiced dry firing that he didn’t see because of the snag. He didn’t see her pants catch on fire when she got too close to the campfire. He didn’t see her fall down the hill the one time she got up. The attorney’s took pictures of that ridge. They knew that the jury need to see the whole picture.
It just wasn’t the pictures that told the story. There was the bullet fragments in the sheep. The bullet had collapsed inside the sheep, leaving tiny little fragments. Through experts we proved there was no way her husband could have shot that sheep. The fragments were made of copper and lead. His bullets on his gun were straight copper and would have not fragmented in the sheep. We proved that the bullet was consistent with the 7 mm Remington Mag.
In the end of the week, after four hours of deliberation, the jury found all four defendants not guilty. They had seen the whole picture. And I’ve read the newspaper articles, they weren’t impressed with the State’s evidence.
In those five days, God taught me something very important.
He taught me the valuable lesson of making assumptions. Jesus emphasized that when he talked about how we should not judge in Matthew 7:1-5. I will not quote all the verses, but one part stands out. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
I know there have been times where I make assumptions and judge someone because I see something they are doing, wearing, or saying that tips some part of me. I think we are all guilty of that. We are specifically ordered not to judge others because we will be judged the same way. And it will not be other people judging us, it will be God. Don’t assume, especially if you don’t know the whole story. God is calling us to be his representatives and we should be loving, not judgmental. For you and I are as human as everyone else on this world, and God does not show favoritism. He loves every person on this world and he call us to love those same people.
My challenge to you (and myself) is to work on loving others and not judging them this week. Just because they live in this neighborhood or wear these clothes or are in this household doesn’t give us the right to assume. We don’t have the whole story. Ask God this week to help you to not assume and to love. Ask him on how you can show love. Trust me, when you love, it’s the greatest feeling. For me, it was in the form of a hug from the wife and the husband. The wife with tears in her eyes and saying, “Thank you for your help.” The husband with a smile on his face and saying, “Thank you for everything that you did. It meant a lot.” It’s those words or just the thought of loving others through a prayer (when they need prayer more than judgment) is what means the most to me now. It would have meant a lot to Jesus. How about you?