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Buford trial begins

More than 20 witnesses could testify
by: , Buford

The trial of Lake Oswego resident Gary Buford, who allegedly bit a police officer during a scuffle on his property last year, began this week in Clackamas County Circuit Court.

Attorneys had nearly finalized their picks for a 12-member jury late afternoon Tuesday. The trial is expected to run through the end of the week in Judge Robert Herndon's courtroom.

Buford, 73, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault of a public safety officer, interference with a peace officer, harassment and two counts of resisting arrest.

The allegations stem from an incident at Buford's home on Camelot Court, where city employees showed up April 14, 2011, to investigate whether stacks of logs seen from a neighboring property were legally cut. The city requires residents to obtain permits to cut down most trees larger than five inches in diameter at breast height.

At some point in the investigation process, tempers flared, and the situation devolved into a physical altercation between Buford and police.

There are more than 20 possible witnesses that will be called during the trial. Among them are many Lake Oswego police officers and other city employees, city councilors Mike Kehoe and Mary Olson, Mayor Jack Hoffman, Buford's wife and friends. About a dozen supporters of Buford sat in the audience Tuesday afternoon.

Potential jurors on the case spent much of the day fielding attorneys' questions during a process known as 'voir dire,' when lawyers vet prospective jury members based on their backgrounds and possible biases. Some of the candidates had to forego lunch to switch from one courtroom to another for consideration.

Those questioned included a semi-retired TriMet LIFT driver, a coffee shop employee, a former registered nurse, the regional manager of a national brokerage and a stay-at-home mom. They came from all parts of Clackamas County, including Lake Oswego. Some had served on a jury before and others hadn't.

During questioning by Buford's attorney, David McDonald, the jury candidates discussed whether they felt like they had to follow a police officer's orders, and whether and when a police officer should use force to contain a suspect.

Some felt a person should defend themselves, perhaps physically, if they felt threatened, while others felt that defense could come later in the process, maybe verbally - after obeying the officer's orders, whether those orders were justified or not.

Clackamas County prosecutor Lewis Burkhart told potential jurors that proving something beyond a 'reasonable doubt' doesn't mean 'beyond all doubt.' The burden of proof in the case lies with the state.

He asked whether they felt the government ever had a right to go on someone's private property. Some felt like government officials do have that right, in part to protect the broader public's quality of life. Some stressed that there had to be some sort of official process in place to ensure no one violated private property rights.

Opening statements were expected to begin Wednesday. Check the Lake Oswego Review for updates on this case.




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