Back in August the visiting judge overseeing the case against defense attorney Frank Carson and the other defendants charged with the death of Korey Kauffman issued an interim order allowing the defendants in custody to have one hand free of shackles during visits with their attorneys at the jail. It turns out the interim came to an end on Friday.
At the conclusion of the day's hearing on the matter, presiding Judge Barbara Zuniga granted the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department's request to vacate the interim order, resulting in the defendants being completely shackled while meeting with their attorneys.
"Whether I disagree or agree with the sheriff's policy it is not my purview to say," said Zuniga. "... It can cause discomfort, but doesn't meet the constitutional magnitude."
In her ruling, Zuniga said she had heard the defense attorneys use the words uncomfortable, inconvenient, and problematic in describing the shackles, but that none of that amounted to a violation of the constitution's eighth amendment.
The Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office alleges Carson orchestrated a criminal conspiracy that ultimately led to the death of Kauffman on March 31, 2012, and that thereafter the defendants worked to hide the death from authorities and thwart any investigation. Carson, along with his wife Georgia DeFilippo, Pop N Cork owners Baljit Athwal and Daljit Atwal, both of Ceres, former California Highway Patrol officer Walter Wells, and Turlock resident Robert Lee Woody are all charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy for Kauffman's death. Carson also faces a charge of perjury. Christina DeFilippo and CHP officers Eduardo Quintanar and Scott McFarlane are facing charges of conspiracy and being accessories in the death and cover-up. Everyone but Woody was taken into custody on Aug. 14. Woody was arrested in March of 2014 and as of now his case is being tried separately.
Carson, Baljit Athwal, Daljit Atwal, and Wells all remain in custody. They are all classified as maximum security inmates and as such they have their hands handcuffed in front of them and attached to a chain around their waist. Their ankles are in leg irons and a chain attaches them to the waist. A black box, also referred to as a handcuff cover, is attached over the handcuffs. In the interview room they have an additional shackle which chains them to the floor, according to their attorneys.
At a previous court hearing, the defense attorneys argued that such measures make it impossible for the defendants to aid in their own defense by the mere fact they can't turn over page documents or sign their names without difficulty. After a brief hearing on the matter, Judge Peter Socrates Manoukian issued a temporary order allowing for the defendants to have one hand free from the shackles while meeting with their attorneys at the jail.
The defense attorneys representing the four defendants said the order was not carried out for some time, prompting defense attorney Martha Carlton-Magana to file a motion seeking to have Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christiansen held in contempt for disregarding the court's order. That matter was later dropped when Zuniga facilitated a compromise between the parties that the black box would be removed during the contact meetings with the defendants at the jail and public safety center.
The compromise was just until Zuniga could rule on the sheriff's department to have the interim order vacated.
Attorney Martin J. Mayer, representing the sheriff's department, argued the order should be vacated on the grounds that they had not been given sufficient time at the previous hearing under Manoukian to argue their case, that the shackles were not a constitutional violation, and that it was a policy applied to all high-risk inmates and that changing it for a few could "open the flood gates" Mayer said.
"This is an order that if left standing will affect any inmate classified as high security," Mayer said.
Lt. Greg Clifton, who oversees the sheriff's department custodial units in downtown Modesto and at the Public Safety Center, testified that the level and type of violence has been on the increase over several years. He testified that between 2010 and 2013, there was a 49 percent increase in assaults on inmates by inmates and a 68 percent increase in assaults on staff by inmates. He said some of the assaults have included an inmate who was stabbed 41 times, including in the eye and another inmate who had his face slashed with an improvised weapon.
Under cross-examination, Clifton did say the rates "slightly decreased" in 2014.
Clifton said that he himself was attacked severely back before the sheriff's department had a policy that shackled maximum security inmates when they were out of their cells. He testified the inmate had him in a headlock and was blocking his airway.
"He was trying to kill me basically," Clifton said.
Clifton said the event is what led the sheriff's department to adopt the current policy they use with maximum security and that a change in the policy for any inmate could increase the potential for violence and the potential that contraband could be passed to inmates.
"The purpose of the policy is to protect staff, inmates, and the public, Clifton said.
Carlton-Magana argued that the defense was not trying to rewrite the sheriff's department, but rather wanted accommodations for the specific defendants.
"We are not asking for a policy change from the sheriff," Carlton-Magana said. "Given the nature of this case and the amount of discovery, we need them to be able to help in their own defense. They are shackled to the point that they can't assist their attorney in their own defense."
Percy Martinez, who is representing Carson, said the shackles made it so that his client could only lean forward with his head on the table and that created an impediment in his ability to aid his attorney.
While Zuniga agreed it could be uncomfortable for the defendants, she said there were legitimate reasons for the shackles and she would not disregard the sheriff's policy.
Prior to the hearing over the shackling issue, the court settle the final matters over the bail for Georgia DeFilippo. The prosecution said they were satisfied as to where the funds for her bond were coming from and did not need a hearing on the matter. DeFilippo surrendered her passport and signed an extradition waiver. As of 5:30 p.m. Friday, DeFilippo was still in custody, according to jail records.
Also on Friday, the attorneys representing Quintanar and McFarlane requested a continuance on the preliminary hearing that was set to start on Monday. The continuance was issued for two weeks.
Before the hearing began Carson's co-counsel, Steve Schmid, requested district attorney investigator Steven Jacobson be forced to remove his gun.
"Mr. Carson does not feel safe in the same courtroom with this man with a hot temper," Schmid told the judge. "There's no need for him to be armed."
Zuniga denied the motion, stating Jacobson is a police officer and has a right to be armed.