After spending about 16 months in jail, only one thing now stands between three militiamen and their freedom: a federal jury. The 12-member jury that will decide the fates of Schaeffer Cox, Coleman Barney and Lonnie Vernon received the weapons and murder conspiracy case early Thursday morning.

It took five weeks to present the evidence relevant to the 16-count indictment against the men, who are accused of seeking to obtain silencers and grenades as part of their commitment to use deadly force to resist government agents, real and imagined. Cox, the leader of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia, believed federal agents wanted him dead in order to silence his political activism.

Once jurors had left the courtroom to begin deliberating, the attorneys began wheeling in the exhaustive piles of evidence presented during the case. Two carts were stacked with semiautomatic long guns. More evidence, stuffed into numerous banker boxes, continued to flow into the courtroom. Before long, the attorneys were wading through waist-deep stacks of evidence, cataloguing each item before making it available to the jury.

Cash and ammunition seized during the case would not be set out in the open, the judge told them. If jurors wanted to see or handle those items, they'd have to ask. And he reminded the jurors, both seriously and lightly, not to point the weapons at each other.

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