High Court Rules on Ruby Ridge

The Supreme Court Monday refused to shield federal law enforcement agents from a civil rights lawsuit growing out of a deadly siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, six years ago.

The justices, without comment, rejected an appeal filed on behalf of nine FBI and U.S. Marshal employees being sued by Kevin Harris, who was wounded in the raid.

Harris is suing 13 federal agents in all, alleging that they conspired to violate his constitutional protection against unreasonable seizures.

Dozens of federal agents in August 1992 converged on the remote mountain cabin in the Idaho Panhandle, where Randy Weaver's family lived. The agents were there to arrest Weaver on a charge of possessing illegal weapons.

Weaver's 14-year-old son, Sam, and deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan of Quincy, Mass., were killed in a gunfight that touched off the 11-day siege. Weaver's wife, Vicki, was fatally shot by FBI sharpshooter Lon Horiuchi on the second day.

Horiuchi is scheduled to stand trial in federal court, beginning next month, on a charge of manslaughter stemming from Mrs. Weaver's death. Justice Department lawyers are seeking to have the charge dismissed and the criminal trial aborted.

Harris and Weaver were acquitted in 1993 of federal murder and other charges stemming from the Ruby Ridge siege. Weaver also was acquitted of the weapons charge that had prompted efforts to arrest him.

Harris' lawsuit alleges he was struck in the upper arm and chest by the same bullet that killed Mrs. Weaver. He remained in the cabin for nine more days, repeatedly asking Weaver and others to kill him to end his suffering, the lawsuit says.

The agents he sued claimed qualified immunity - a legal shield for government officials who act in a good-faith belief that their actions are not illegal - and sought to have the lawsuit dismissed.

But U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill of Boise, Idaho, ruled that the lawsuit should proceed to the pretrial exchange of information, known as discovery. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling last September. Both rulings were upheld Monday by the nation's top court.

By RICHARD CARELLI, Associated Press Writer. ©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed