An item about the West Memphis Three proceedings the other day was prompted by the note on the jump from Brent Peterson, one of those in the advocacy group working for a new trial for the three men convicted in the slayings years ago. I had meant to include it at the time.
The hearing yesterday in Jonesboro was very strange. The first link posted below is coverage from Memphis channel 5 and the second is LR ABC 7. The following forwarded Google link will take you to the most extensive coverage of all stations by KAIT in Jonesboro. Both 6 and 10 o'clock segments are posted. You just click on either beside the video icon. They were the only three TV stations covering the hearings. Also an AP and the West Memphis Evening Times reporters were there.
Capi, Lorri and I were baffled by the proceedings as the media and all the lawyers were. The judge came across as flippant, arrogant and capricious. In April he had already set a schedule for evidentiary hearings in September/October, and yesterday astonished everyone by repeating the process to determine the order the three defendants cases will be presented. He said he didn't take notes.
Everyone thought he would be up on all the filings and give an idea what he was going to allow to be heard. When Damien's lawyers referenced the Reply to State filing (I emailed you last week on the 13th) the judge hadn't seen it. The same for the affidavit filed on May 30 under seal about the jury foreman's misconduct. The judge kept looking over at the clerk raising his eyebrows to ask if she knew anything about those filings.
In April the judge had said the WM3 would have the right to the final filings to the state. After the prosecution asked that Jessie's lawyers reduce a 256 page petition to 10 pages, the judge denied it then opened it back up for either side to file anything else they wanted in the next ten days. He said he would have a ruling on what he would hear, if anything, on September 5. This only gives our lawyers 2 or 3 days before the 09/08 hearings to make all the arrangements with whichever witnesses will be allowed.
A discussion ensued about the state wanting access to all the files on the whole case by the defense for Jessie. Jessie's lawyer, Michael Burt, pointed out that it consisted of 36 large boxes in storage and how would it be done logistically. Would the prosecution fly to San Fran and sift through everything to see what they wanted? Would Michael himself decide what to send, or just send it all? The judge just dropped it by telling them to work it out.
After the judge asked for any final comments getting about three more from the lawyers, I raised my hand and standing up asked if it would be permissible to speak. He asked who I was, and I said an Arkansas citizen with a group from LR working to raise awareness about the innocence of the 3 known as the WM3 and to raise funding for their legal defense. I explained that the celebrity "well" had dried up and asked if he might require the state to pay for the expense of Mr. Burt's time, copying and shipping.
The judge got a scowl of disdain on his face, and I felt him thinking who does this guy think he is? Since he only said he would let the two sides decide that and didn't sit me back down I was emboldened and asked if he might remove the gag order from all the legal teams. He said "No, this was too controversial". I sat back down only nodding. Then Will Carter from Jonesboro 8 stood up and asked for clarification on the memo the judge sent out barring cameras in the court house. Mr. Carter asked if the courthouse were not public property and would this be the case for all trials in the future. The judge said only this one and the crews could wait outside and get shots when people exited.
On the way home Capi talked to Will Carter on the phone who said they were planning to file an injunction against Judge Burnett and the network and KATV would be in on it over the judge also saying they could not directly quote anything from the courtroom, only paraphrase. It seemed odd to me that he said he would allow desktops in the courtroom, where everyone could have internet access, and write updates on blogs. Last night some news accounts came through that the judge was contacted later about his statement, and he said he only meant they could not play any recordings on the internet or TV.
After the hearing all the lawyers met at the hotel. They were talking about my courtroom high-jinx when we arrived. John Phillipsborn shook my hand and said it was unprecedented in his memory to have audience participation in court. They all agreed it could help their filing, soon to come, to receive indigent status for Jason and Jessie to have the state pay their legal costs. It was costly to fly all the attorneys in from San Francisco for very little output. But nothing in Burnett's court should surprise us any longer.
Also, we ate all three of our meals at the Edge, on the edge of the ASU campus, and befriended two employees who put our bumper stickers out on display for people to take. The owner of the business is on the city council with Kent Arnold, the jury foreman, who will be on trial, if the judge decides to unseal the document disallowing the attorney/client privilege claim. She came in to work the lunch shift, and when we got there to eat the bumper stickers had been removed. But I got one of the guy's phone numbers, who is going to help us get the Time for Truth video played at a local venue.
Thanks for all your support and prayers, and if you can donate to the cause, you can now do so by credit card on our website: www.freewestmemphis3.org
. You will receive a tax exemption receipt.
If these links don't take you straight to the news websites, you can copy them and paste into the browser window. http://www.wmctv.com/global/story.asp?sˆ70670 http://www.katv.com/news/stories/0808/545952_video.html?ref=newsstory