Appeals court vacates Ruby Ridge ruling

SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal appeals court Friday vacated its June decision that said an FBI sharpshooter may be tried for manslaughter when he killed Vicki Weaver during the Ruby Ridge standoff.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on June 5 rejected federal claims that Lon Horiuchi was immune from prosecution because he was acting in his official capacity when he killed Randy Weaver's wife. Ruling 6-5, the circuit at the time said Horiuchi could be tried if he was found to have acted illegally in that official capacity.

Friday's decision has no bearing on the case because a federal judge already dismissed charges at the request of Boundary County Prosecutor Brett Benson. After the court's June ruling, Benson declined to prosecute and U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge dismissed the case.

The court said it vacated its ruling because it has now become "moot." The court did not elaborate.

In legal terms, the decision means there is now no precedent on whether federal agents are immune from state prosecution for alleged wrongdoing committed while working in an official capacity.

The federal government, which claimed that its agents are immune from state prosecutions, vowed to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court but did not after Benson declined to prosecute Horiuchi.

Vicki Weaver died on the second day of an 11-day siege at the couple's northern Idaho cabin in 1992. The siege began with a shootout in which the Weavers' teen-age son and a deputy U.S. marshal were killed.

Horiuchi has said he didn't see Vicki Weaver, who witnesses say was killed as she held open the door of the cabin, her baby in her arms.