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Murder Suspect Shot, Killed While Attacking Judge

Posted Mar 05 2009 6:09am

This article has the details.  Apparently, the suspect was on the stand, and he attacked the judge as she called for a recess.  Initial reports indicate he had a cutting or stabbing instrument on him. and his movement was suggesting he was stabbing the judge on the case.  A couple of random thoughts:

1) Was the guy shackled?  If not, why?  He is a murder suspect, and his comments just prior to his attack (when asked why he killed his girlfriend, he stated, "Because she deserved to die") suggest he was at increased risk for violence.  I' m not sure what the policies are from state to state, but I would think individuals accused of violent crimes would receive extra precautions, regardless of the jurisdiction.

2) How did he get the object into the courtroom? These guys are supposed to be searched prior to entering a room with a judge, attorneys, and family members.  Either he hid this object particularly well, or someone dropped the ball.  Unfortuntately, this occurs more frequently than it should, but searching is one of those mundane, repetitive, not-too-pleasant activities that, after doing hundreds of searchs, becomes rote; until something like this happens.  In the prison, when someone is doing pat searches that are so fast nothing is being accomplished, they are called "drive by searches."  These are never a good idea, obviously...

3) The suspect' s own lawyer defended the shooting, which would suggest the story went down pretty much as reported.  Yet another reminder that, whatever you think of defense attorneys, give them credit for meeting with guys like this, day in and day out, and representing their legal interests.  It takes a certain skill set to be able to do that kind of work effectively for any length of time.

4) A family member of the suspect said they tipped off staff that he may have a weapon of some sort.  I winder if this is true, and if so, if anything was done with the information.  Really, all one could expect would be a more thorough search, including with a metal detector, but I suppose more details will need to come out before this part of the story can be comfirmed.

One last thing - this stuff may occur infrequently, but I can attest that there is something to the idea of a security threat in courtrooms.  Yes, people get searched before they are allowed inside, but the fact is trials and hearings are often high stakes, with, in the case of murder, rape, etc., highly sensitive and emotional issues being addressed.  People are taking the stand to make comments that will impact others in many significant ways, including potentially long prison sentences.  Given all of this, it makes sense to be wary in a courtroom, rather than lax.  Just because people pass through a metal detector, and there is an officer in the room, does not mean bad things can' t happen.  Hopefully the people in charge of security in courtrooms can use the recent incidents of violence to learn even better safety procedures. 

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