Prosecutors: Accused Oregon bank bombers were motivated by anti-government views

By Tim Fought, AP
Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Prosecutors: Accused bombers were anti-government

SALEM, Ore. — Prosecutors provided a glimpse Wednesday of their strategy in the upcoming trial of a father and son accused of killing two law enforcement officers in an Oregon bank explosion, saying the defendants harbored anti-government sentiment and were jubilant over the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

In a pretrial hearing in state court, prosecutors cited witness statements that said Bruce Turnidge pumped his fist in the air on hearing of the destruction of the Oklahoma City federal building that left 168 dead.

Prosecutors said they had evidence that his son, Josh, echoed his views.

The two are accused in the December 2008 bombing of a bank in Woodburn that killed local police Capt. Tom Tennant and State Police bomb expert William Hakim. Police Chief Scott Russell lost his right leg, and bank employee Laurie Ann Perkett was cut.

Jury selection is expected to begin early in September, and testimony may start near the end of the month. Lawyers estimate the trial will take three months.

At the hearing Wednesday, defense lawyers sought to limit what the prosecution could say during jury selection and opening statements about the Turnidges’ actions before the bombing about 30 miles south of Portland.

Descriptions of what the two did years ago could be excluded as evidence. Defense lawyer Steven Gorham said they shouldn’t be allowed in the trial’s early going.

“We think that prejudices the jury from the get-go,” he said.

The team of prosecutors said it would present several motives for the bombing of the West Coast Bank branch, including financial gain and hatred for government.

Judge Thomas Hart said the prosecution could refer to some, though not all, of the previous acts.

But he said that references to either one of the defendants couldn’t be used against the other. For example, the prosecution can’t say: “Look what Mr. Bruce Turnidge said. You should flush Mr. Joshua Turnidge down the drain because of it,” he said.

In another ruling, Hart refused Gorham’s request to allow Josh Turnidge to ask questions of potential jurors.

Prosecutors have said they’ll seek the death penalty, although it has rarely been carried out in recent decades in Oregon.

will not be displayed