02/03/2019: "Zooming Court Room Camera Violates Constitutional Rights, Judge Rules Government Misconduct…again"
Judge Donald E. Eaton may have had a sense of deja-vu last Friday (02-03-19) after he was informed a security camera in the District court room had zoomed in on the note pads and documents of the jury, the prosecutor and the defense council, and as a result he once again had to find governmental misconduct in a jury trial.
Because of the unexpected delay in proceedings due to the zooming camera, and because a jury was involved, Judge Eaton held an unusual Saturday hearing on a motion by the defense to dismiss all charges in the case, due to the violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights by the actions of the Sheriff -and perhaps by others in his office- when the “security” camera was seen to repeatedly zoom in and focus on court room materials.
After hearing from both sides, and testimony from both Sheriff Ron Kreps and a sheriff dispatcher, he dismissed the charges with prejudice due to governmental misconduct.
All parties involved had agreed that under Washington law it was up to the Prosecutor’s office to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant’s rights to a fair trial had not been prejudiced as a result of a violation of the attorney-client privilege.
According to the motion to dismiss filed by the law office of Nicholas Power and Colleen Kenimond, the attorneys of record for the defendant in the case, the “actions of the elected Sheriff’s Ron Krebs in this matter shock the conscience, and have thereby violated..[the defendant].. the right to Due Process under the United States Constitution and Washington Constitution…”.
The problem for Prosecuting Attorney Randy Gaylord started when Superior Court Judge Kathryn C. Loring was in her office and noticed on her monitor that the camera in the District Court room was moving, and had zoomed in on a note pad of one of the jurors, then moved over and zoomed and focused on Prosecutor Gayord’s notebook, then moved over to a yellow pad on defense counsel Kenimond’s notes, then to the bench where Judge Eaton was sitting, finally returning to the normal fixed position.
Judge Loring notified Judge Eaton, who removed the jury, and then started to ask questions.
The question for the judge and the attorneys was how, and why did this happen, and by whom?
The control of the camera is in the Sheriff’s dispatch office. Judge Eaton called Sheriff Krebs to the stand on Friday and under oath Krebs stated he had decided to check the District Court camera to see what was happening in District Court, so he accessed the camera and zoomed in on the court room once only, did not move or pan the camera, then stopped.
A Sheriff’s dispatcher who was on duty when the camera was moving testified under oath on Saturday that he had also moved the camera, only once, to look at a display board that Gaylord had put up for the jury to look at, but that was the only time he had accessed the camera.
However, on Saturday Judge Eaton stated he had repeatedly watched a recording of the event, and saw that the camera had moved from location to location and each time zoomed in on the various items on the desks, then was moved back to the original location.
Sheriff Krebs and the dispatcher stated they did not know how, or by whom, the camera may have been operated besides them, and were very hazy about who was in the office and near the camera controls at the time of the event. No idea. In fact Krebs stated he did not know the camera could even be moved from a stationary position, and did not know how to operate it to move or zoom, and was surprised when it had moved, and so maybe he had unintentionally caused it to move and zoom.
After questioning by Gaylord, defense attorney Kenimond questioned Krebs, and at one point asked if Krebs had ever lied to a government official. Krebs responded he had not.
Judge Eaton stated that only two, or perhaps three of the words on the most important papers that were seen in the zoomed shots could be read, however Washington law requires that when the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that no prejudice has occurred, the court must dismiss the charges; and Judge Eaton was not convinced the burden of poof was met by the prosecution.
After the ruling some of the court room observers wondered among themselves if the control and manipulation of official security cameras has happen in other court rooms in the country, or was our county the only one where this has happen?