Judge warns lawyers that he might declare a mistrial in DeMocker case
A Superior Court judge indicated that he may take matters into his own hands, warning lawyers Friday that he might have to declare a mistrial in the Steven DeMocker murder case.
DeMocker, 56, the Prescott stockbroker who prosecutors say killed his former wife, Carol Kennedy, on July 2, 2008, to avoid paying hefty alimony bills, appeared calm and friendly, speaking with his former defense lawyers who pulled out of his case mid-trial for reasons that remain under seal.
While Public Defender Dean Trebesh told Superior Court Judge Warren R. Darrow that he found two lawyers to represent DeMocker, Craig Williams and Michael Shaw, Williams indicated that he might have a conflict and asked for a week's delay to determine if he does. Shaw, who didn't have a chance to see the witness list, doesn't know yet whether he might also have conflicts.
Darrow broached the idea of a mistrial, saying that both Williams and Shaw told him in a conference in chambers that it would take them months to get up to speed to defend DeMocker in the complex case, which recently generated new fraud charges regarding an e-mail defense lawyers sought to admit into evidence. That e-mail claimed that a drug hit team murdered Kennedy.
"I'd need a long time to prepare," Williams said. But he also declined to move for a mistrial.
"A jury is on indefinite hold; is that what you're telling me?" Darrow asked.
Williams responded, "I'm not ready to go to trial, to take up where the other team is."
Deputy County Attorney Joseph C. Butner III said that the prosecution remains ready to go forward at any time and blamed the defense for the delays. The jury has been waiting for seven weeks now for the trial to resume, Butner observed. He added that the prosecution would oppose a mistrial that the judge might spontaneously declare.
Larry Hammond, one of DeMocker's outgoing defense lawyers, who remains along with John Sears as caretaker counsel until new lawyers step in, denied that the defense had caused the lengthy delay.
"On Mr. DeMocker's behalf, we have a strong interest in finding counsel to replace us who are conflict-free," Hammond said. Hammond also asked Darrrow to appoint a separate lawyer to address DeMocker's conditions of custody within the Yavapai County jail. DeMocker has been in lockdown for six weeks, Hammond said. Hammond added that to hold DeMocker in lockdown prevents him from helping his lawyers prepare for his defense, a violation of the 6th Amendment of the Constitution.
"DeMocker was one of several inmates placed on administration segregation due to a fight in his dorm area," said Dwight D'Evelyn, a spokesman for the sheriff. "DeMocker was not involved in the actual fight. This was done to reduce the exposure of inmates to further problems in the jail dorm."
D'Evelyn explained, "This classification change was to assist jail staff in keeping order and further protect inmates in the dorm."
While he did not declare a mistrial Friday, Darrow cited various case law decisions, telling the lawyers, "I think they are likely applicable. I'm alerting people to the law."
One of those decisions, State of Arizona v. Givens, states: "Mistrial declared because of manifest necessity does not bar (a) new trial; moreover, where (a) trial court determines that (the) ends of substantial justice cannot be obtained without discontinuing (the) trial, mistrial may be declared without the defendant's consent and over his objection, and (the) defendant may be retried consistently with (the) Fifth Amendment."
Asked whether DeMocker might assert his right against double jeopardy (not to be tried twice on the same charges) if the judge declares a mistrial, Deputy County Attorney Dennis McGrane said that issue might need to be litigated.
Darrow, meanwhile, scheduled another status conference for next Friday at the courthouse in Camp Verde.