Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Standard-Examiner: Judge Keeps Lid on Warrants

Sodden question: Will the defendant Stewart get even an adequate legal defense in this matter, let alone a "first class" defense?

There's more interesting news in the 1/4/12 Ogden City Shootings matter, with a couple of new items appearing in the Standard-Examiner since our last WCF update.

Here are the key paragraphs from an online story of yesterday afternoon, which reveals that the veil of secrecy continues concerning this case:
OGDEN -- Prosecutors have sealed at least three warrants tied to the Matthew Stewart shooting case.

Search warrants are, by law, sealed for 20 days, then become public unless prosecutors convince a judge to extend the seal without date, said Nancy Volmer, state courts spokeswoman.

The Weber County Attorney's Office was successful in having some of the warrants sealed even before the 20 days had expired, Volmer said, two last week and one Tuesday.

The Standard also carries an expanded version of this story in its morning print edition, which reveals some even more interesting details to this story:
This latter story is particularly interesting for two reasons, we believe:

1) It reports a total of four warrants have so far been issued (and sealed), including "a fourth search warrant" issued by 2nd District Judge Scott Hadley on Monday last. Mr. Gurrister's story also provides information on the earlier three:
  • Warrant issued Jan. 4 by Judge Ernie Jones, sealed Jan. 6 by Judge Mark DeCaria.
  • Warrant issued Jan. 5 by Hadley, sealed Jan. 6 by DeCaria.
  • Warrant issued Jan. 5 by DeCaria, sealed Friday by DeCaria.
In at least two of these instances these warrants were sealed by the same judge who issued them in the first place, which looks like incautious judicial procedure to us, in an important case like this.

Moreover it seems that an extraordinary amount of effort is still being expended by the court and prosecutors in a curious effort to conceal the identity of the prosecution's confidential informant, whose true identity seems to have been already publicly revealed, thus raising the pregnant question, what else are these political hacks trying to hide?

Hopefully, in this context, the Utah print media will dig in their heels, take the sealing of these records up on appeal, and help shine a little light on the evidence which triggered the issuance of these warrants in the first place.

2) And Mr. Gurrister's expanded story reveals this interesting tidbit:
The Rule 8 fund maintained by the state through premiums paid by various participating counties provides a $100,000 lump sum for capital homicide defenses, Richards said.

Davis and Box Elder counties subscribe to the fund, but Weber does not, he said, meaning he will have to negotiate with Weber officials for funds to supplement his client’s defense.
Up until now, we'd assumed that public's expense for fees and costs for Mr. Stewart's public defender defense would be capped at the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 8's $100,000 per case; but with this morning's Tim Gurrister revelation on that angle, it looks like all bets are off on the question of how much taxpayer dough it will ultimately take to properly defend this case.

It's a highly complicated case however, which will pretty quickly gobble up massive defense costs for investigators, expert witnesses and pretrial discovery, not to mention the thousands of billable hours which will inexorably accrue for attorney's fees. So at this early point folks, regarding the prospective price of Matthew Stewart's defense, we'll go out on a limb and predict that "the sky's the limit," folks.

In this connection, Don't forget the SE story we cited in our earlier WCF writeup, quoting Bernie the Attorney Allen, who said that a first class criminal defense will cost, as a rule of thumb, "close to a million dollars for each case."

Here's the big question we think: Will the defendant Stewart get even an adequate legal defense in this matter, let alone a "first class" defense?

Update 1/25/12 10:00 a.m.: The Standard has just now uploaded Mr. Gurrister's updated morning story to its website:

26 comments:

Danny said...

Does it even have to be said?

The county has unlimited resources to prosecute the defendant.

Meanwhile the defendant has none and has to beg for them from the county.

The county can invade the defendant's home time and again looking for anything they can find.

Meanwhile they deny the defendant access to even the search warrants used to invade the home.

Stewart needs to find a civil attorney and sue the county for $100 million.  It will be a service to us all.  Only that will clean out this rat's nest.  What is he waiting for?

Ernie the Attorney said...

Reading between the lines, it's pretty obvious where the problem lies here:

There's some kind of obvious defect in the original search warrant, which neither the court nor the prosecutor  want either the press or the public to find out about yet.

From_Utah said...

Interesting! I hope you're right. 

D_Dalton said...

Wow...I might be missing something major here, but I'm really having a hard time getting worked up about what it's going to cost to defend Mr. Stewart. I'm much more interested in two other numbers. First, how much we're going to spend on the prosecution (from the beginning of the case--pre-shooting) and second, the difference between the amount spending prosecuting versus defending.

If it's purely a fiscal concern, we should be having a conversation about both sides. If it's a question of justice, the cost of mounting a credible defense should not be an issue.

Like it or not, the cost of defense is one of the risks that we, collectively, run when we choose to make and enforce laws. That risk and cost must necessarily be a moot point at this stage of a case if we're interested in the entire legal process.

I'm hoping that the upshot of this all will be a rethinking of how we choose to enforce laws (and, secondarily, which laws we choose to make). If that happens, that's a victory for all of us. Assuming that happens, it's pretty discouraging that cost would be the spur rather than civil liberties.

D_Dalton said...

I also didn't know that if a warrant is sealed, it's sealed to the defense until a petition is filed. Do any of you law-talking types know if that petition is generally pro forma, or if there are some cases in which the petition is denied? If so, when and for what reasons?

Ernie the Attorney said...

"Wow...I might be missing something major here, but I'm really having a
hard time getting worked up about what it's going to cost to defend Mr.
Stewart. "

LOL DD.  I do believe Gentle Reader Danny hit the nail on the head.  And yes, indeedy you seem to be missing the main point.

In truth, t's not really all about how much money Weber County  bureaucrats might be willing to spend.  Rather, it's about whether the accused in this case has any prospect of getting a fair trial at all, unless the tightwads in Weber County government will be forced to put forth a real "first-class" legal defense.

Here's the gist of what the ever-savvy Dan:y said

"The county has unlimited resources to prosecute the defendant.

Meanwhile the defendant has none and has to beg for them from the county.

The county can invade the defendant's home time and again looking for anything they can find.

Meanwhile they deny the defendant access to even the search warrants used to invade the home."


The question of course, given all the hoopla, is whether the Defendant, Matthew Stewart will have the opportunity to fully and completely defend himself in a court system which is obviously heavily stacked against him.

Ernie the Attorney said...

The underlying warrant data cannot be ultimately concealed, once the "charges" have been filed, by the court or prosecutors from the defense lawyers in this case.  The only pending question, once all the pertinant information is released to defense counsel, will be whether such information can be further concealed from the general public.

D_Dalton said...

From the STD-EX:

Randy Richards, Stewart's attorney, said he hasn't seen any of the
warrants and will likely have to ask a judge to unseal them at some
point as part of the discovery motions he has already filed.


I'm not asking about public access here. That's a separate question.   Is the paper wrong? From your reply, I'd have to think so. If so, my first post on this subject is pretty useless and should be deleted. If not, the questions in it remain unanswered.

D_Dalton said...

I (and the post to which you reply) take no issue with what you've said.  But it's rather tangential to what I posted.

If you look again, I'd assumed (conceptually) a fair trial in constructing my arguments. If anything, I was augmenting a point that Danny had made by making more general statements about the ideas and principles in play.

Practically, I don't think a fair trial is possible in Ogden (for reasons including but not limited to dollars) and were I the attorney, I'd push hard for a change of venue.

While the question, to you, may be if he can get a fair trial here; the question that I was interested in and discussing was accepting costs generally as a prerequisite to making and enforcing laws. It's a matter of principle that should inform the practical--and if we don't base our notion of justice on unimpeachable (and consistent) principles, it is not justice.

Ernie the Attorney said...

There can be no question about this.  All information in re these serial warrants, wherein it would appear to the rest of thus "in the know" that Weber County prosecutors are working feverishly to build up their case for "probable cause," which may have been lacking in the first place, will be probably be withheld from the public.  Neverthless, ALL defense counci will soon have access to ALL this info.

Whether there will be a court-issued "public gag order" is an entirely different question. of course.

D_Dalton said...

Excellent. That's what I'd always believed and was surprised when I read otherwise in the paper. Thanks for the reply and insight.

On another note, I'm less than thrilled about the warrants being sealed from the public. However, I'm pretty unqualified to determine if it's a dodge/cover or was done for a more legitimate reason.

Bob Becker said...

If it's a question of justice, the cost of mounting a credible defense should not be an issue. Like it or not, the cost of defense is one of the risks that we, collectively, run when we choose to make and enforce laws. 
Yup.  Exactly right. 

Bob Becker said...

To take up the question raised by B Dalton below: what are the grounds on which a judge may order a warrant related to an ongoing prosecution withheld from the public?

Bob Becker said...

Why do you hope there's a defect in the warrants?  

Ernie the Attorney said...

What are the grounds on which a judge may order a warrant related to an ongoing prosecution [to be] withheld from the public?

Protection of the identity of  vulnerable confidential informants, mainly:

Confidential Informants:
Protecting Their Identity

From_Utah said...

Because the way Weber County dealt with this issue, I believe, in my ever-so-humble opinion, was atrocious.  Ex-girlfriend goes to police to rat out ex-boyfriend, police then go rambo on Stewart with very frightening show of force. All over pot plants.  I'm not condoning Stewart's response. But there's got to be a better way to deal with something like this. Executing a (possibly) defective search warrant is just the cherry on top to what I think was a very ill-conceived plan to catch this "criminal."  Weber County needs to reassess its behavior. And if it is going to search someone's private residence they sure as hell better have all of their t's crossed and i's dotted.  Searching a private residence needs to reach very high standards and should not just be issued pell mell.  I really hope in the future Weber County will stop and think first the next time they are presented with this issue.

Bummed said...

"Ex-girlfriend goes to police to rat out ex-boyfriend, police then go
rambo on Stewart with very frightening show of force. All over pot
plants."


Yep.  This pretty much sums up the latest episode of  "COPS"as it played out in Ogden.

The only problem?  The cops somehow "lost" the "taped evidence", so you won't be seeing it all soon on your cable TeeVee, or even at your local courthouse.

Danny said...

So much money.

A man dead.

Others wounded.

A neighborhood turned into a war zone.

All over some cannabis.

We live in a country of stupid people.  It's really sad. But it is the unavoidable conclusion.

Danny said...

... or I should say, filled with many stupid people.  Based on comments here there are also many smart people too.  How to get the smart into power and leadership is the question.

Go Figure said...

"It reports a total of four warrants have so far been issued (and sealed), including "a fourth search warrant" issued by 2nd District Judge Scott Hadley"

Three out of the four were sealed by that GOP political hack Mark Decaria, I'll make note.

Go figure.

Go Figure said...

"It reports a total of four warrants have so far been issued (and
sealed), including "a fourth search warrant" issued by 2nd District
Judge Scott Hadley"

Three out of the four were sealed, closing out public scrutiny by that GOP political hack Mark Decaria, I'll make note.

So what else would you expect of the hacks of the corporo-fascist GOP political party which gave America the Patriot Act, NDAA, PIPS and repealed Utah's GRAMA?

Go figure.

What Did You Expect said...

"It reports a total of four warrants have so far been issued (and sealed), including "a fourth search warrant" issued by 2nd District Judge Scott Hadley"

Three out of the four were sealed, closing out public scrutiny by that GOP political hack Mark Decaria, I'll make note.

So what else would you expect of the hacks of the corporo-fascist GOP political party which gave America the Patriot Act, NDAA, SOPA, PIPA and repealed Utah's GRAMA?

Wake up, People.

D_Dalton said...

As long as you think a single party is responsible for your laundry list, you're missing the larger picture.

Also, you should add ACTA to the list. It's implications are  nasty.

Oh, and don't forget the executive orders. There's a real conversation to be had there, too, spanning several administrations.

My point is that irrespective of the party, the agenda and trajectory seems to be the same on the issues that you raise (although I'll concede the point on GRAMA in Utah).

rudizink said...

Exactly right, DD.  With respect to "the Patriot Act, NDAA, SOPA and PIPA" there's plenty of blame to be distributed "on both sides of the aisle."

And I'm glad you brought up ACTA, which  will be the next big issue, I think, to ignite the next big protest by liberty loving Americans and others in the international community.

D_Dalton said...

One of the things that's going to be interesting about ACTA is how the Senate will handle it. Separation of powers could take another huge hit. Given recent history and current rhetoric, it looks like we're heading further down the rabbit hole of government by executive fiat.

googlegirl said...

 New Petition Asks White House To Submit ACTA To The Senate For Ratification

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