Judge: DA can stay on Stagner case
Despite an emotional plea Tuesday by public defender Greg Greer to disqualify Ninth District Attorney Mac Myers from the Michael Stagner murder case, Myers will remain as prosecutor.
Greer was just one of several witnesses – including Myers, clerk of the combined courts Jim Bradford and DA victim advocate Vicki Jones – called to the stand during a motions hearing on the Stagner case.
At issue is whether Myers improperly went to court clerk Jim Bradford to complain about defense team meetings with victims, and how victims were being treated by an interpreter and the public defender’s victim advocate.
After hearing Myers’ complaint, Bradford sought guidance from Judge T. Peter Craven. He later ruled that the interpreter could no longer work with the defense because she would be interpreting during the trial, set to begin July 29.
“No one followed what was even close to due process on this,” Greer testified, appearing upset and speaking with a shaky voice during Tuesday’s hearing. “Any time I get an application (to defend a client) whether it’s popular or unpopular – I accept that responsibility.
“I rely on the fact that you can trust this process, that you can trust people that they don’t go behind your back. It has undermined that process,” Greer said. “You say this is a minor issue, but it’s not. It’s a fundamental issue.”
From the stand, he looked over and apparently saw Myers snickering at the prosecution table.
“You can smirk, Mr Myers, like you’re doing behind that table,” Greer added.
Later, Myers was called to the stand by Stagner’s other public defender, Jamie Roth, who attempted to prove an appearance of impropriety on Myers’ part. She argued that Myers should be taken off the case and replaced by a special prosecutor.
“When I went to Mr. Bradford, I wanted to know who was paying Ms. DeLeo,” Myers testified, referring to interpreter Maria DeLeo. “I saw what I felt was inappropriate and asked who was paying Ms. DeLeo.”
Myers said he saw DeLeo take victims from their seats in the courtroom, several rows behind the prosecution table, and bring them up to the front row right behind Stagner. Myers said that part of his job as DA is to protect witnesses and victims from the defendant.
“I was just wondering what was going on. I was concerned,” Myers said.
After the witnesses were cross examined, Craven denied the public defender’s motion to disqualify Myers and suspend the court proceedings.
The judge said he would rule later on other issues raised during the lengthy motion hearing, as many of those issues went beyond the scope of the defense’s original motion.
Craven also ruled that any communication with court clerks by either the prosecution or defense must come in writing and then immediately be faxed to the opposing side.
Craven also postponed a ruling on whether to allow a second court-ordered psychological examination of Stagner, as sought by the prosecution.
Stagner has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Myers filed a motion to let renowned forensic psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz examine Stagner in order for the court to get a second opinion on Stagner’s sanity.
Greer countered that Dr. David Johnson, the forensic psychiatrist who examined Stagner earlier this year, is fully competent and there is no good cause to allow another examination.
While testifying Tuesday, Johnson said while Stagner may have known what he was doing was criminal, he may not have seen it as being wrong.
“The use of the word `wrong’ and `violating the law’ are different,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he found Stagner to be insane, but said it was a “close call.”
Myers argued that because it was a close call, and because it is such a serious and complex case, it would be wise to get a second opinion.
“Are we going to have the opinion of one man determine the outcome of this litigation?” Myers asked. “The situation here, I feel, compels and begs for another opinion.”
Craven’s ruling on the matter will likely come later this week.
The last motion Craven ruled on was the prosecution’s request for jury questionnaires.
Sending out questionnaires with the jury summonses is a fairly common practice in high-profile cases, so potential jurors can be screened before coming to court.
Once the prosecution and defense come up with a list of questions, a hearing will be held to agree on which questions to include on the questionnaires.
Once filled-out questionnaires are received at the court, each side will group them into three piles: a red, yellow and green pile.
The red pile is for rejected jurors. The yellow pile will be for possible, but borderline, jurors and the green pile will be for good jury candidates.
The yellow and green jurors will then be called in and attorneys can then begin voir dire, or jury questioning and selection.
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