Tim DeChristopher's attorneys were denied their motion to explore deficiencies in the oil and gas lease auction that their client is accused of intentionally sabotaging.
Pat Shea, for the defense, argued that prosecutors asked a BLM official about the quality of the processes that were performed prior to the December 2008 auction. This was in reference to questions about how much staff time and other costs the government blames on DeChristopher.
But the defense argued that that the jury heard mentions both of "meticulous records"--perhaps suggesting the process was solid and sufficient--and also the public revenue that the state and federal government collect from the auctions--i.e. the "good" things that result from them. Shea argued the jury should also hear some of the bad things that result from such auctions--like loss of access to lands by recreationists--as well as particulars about the controversies that eventually concluded in the Obama administration canceling the results of the auction due not to DeChristopher, but to the pre-auction deficiencies in the process committed by the BLM.
U.S. District Judge Dee Benson, though, provided guidance that he would allow very little of that type of evidence in the trial--a recurring theme now that started well before trial.
Benson said the only thing that matters to this trial was DeChristopher's mens rea, or a criminal frame of mind. Put more simply, Did DeChristopher intentionally lie when he signed his bidder form, or was it something other than intentional lies?
The defense strategy has revealed itself largely. Their argument is that DeChristopher never intended to lie, exactly, that initially he was not given an option to be a spectator, so with a somehwhat fuzzy mind about what was going on--i.e., not mens rea--he entered the auction room. That still leaves the problem of whether DeChristopher had a criminal liar's frame of mind after as he was bidding on parcels, and it's not clear how the defense hopes to address that (they did not give an opening argument).
Closing arguments are expected tomorrow.
Update 3-2-11 - Here are the documents submitted by DeChristopher's attorneys related to this debate.