02/01/2019: "Call For Mistrial After Security Camera Zooms In On Defense Notes"
(Island Guardian photo)
A misdemeanor jury trial in San Juan County District Court came to a sudden delay on Thursday after Judge Pro Tem Don Eaton was informed a court room security camera was seen on the screen in the Court Clerks office to suddenly move and zoom in on the desk of one of the attorneys notes.
Judge Eaton removed the jury back to the jury room as he began the process of finding out what happen, how did it happen, and what, if anything were the legal repercussions.
The what and how was answered when SJC Sherriff Ron Krebs took the stand and said that he had been observing the various camera feeds and when he selected the district court camera to expand the view he inadvertently caused the camera to temporarily focus on the notes; and it may have happen more than once.
Judge Eaton ordered the tape that records the footage to be checked for the frames in question, and stated there were only two words, in two different sentences that could be read, but it still raised serious issues in terms of it being prejudicial to the case of the defendant.
While all of this was going on the jury spent part of Thursday and most of Friday cooling their heels in blissful ignorance of why they were kept in a small jury room.
The question before the court was if a mistrial would be ordered and/or would a new trial be requested; and would other motions presented that may impact the legal proceedings.
Late Friday afternoon Judge Eaton asked the jury to return to the court room and then, without informing them what had caused the delay- asked if they would be willing to return on Saturday with the expectation a ruling by the court at the end of the day would at least allow them to return home.
Court will resume Saturday morning at 8:30 to continue to deal with the issue, with the jury expected to return after eleven to resume the case as if nothing unusual had occurred. More to come.