DeMocker Trial: Judge assigned on Thursday is out on Monday
PRESCOTT - The judge assigned Thursday to hear the Steven DeMocker murder trial was removed Monday morning after a request for a new judge from the defense team.
Yavapai County Superior Court Michael R. Bluff was assigned Thursday, after Presiding Judge David L. Mackey said he needed to reassign Judge Warren R. Darrow. Darrow has been hearing the lengthy James Arthur Ray sweat-lodge trial in addition to the DeMocker case and the rest of his daily caseload.
DeMocker is currently awaiting the start of a retrial on charges that he murdered his ex-wife, Carol Kennedy, in 2008. The first trial ended when the defense team quit and Darrow declared a mistrial.
In August, when Mackey offered the suggestion that he might reassign the case, the defense objected to reassignment, "but would stipulate to this court (Mackey) hearing the case," Mackey said at the time.
Mackey has also said several times, and restated Monday, that of all the Superior Court judges, only he, Darrow, and Bluff have room on their calendars to preside over what is certain to be a lengthy retrial.
At the time, in August, various sources, who asked not to be named because of a judicial "gag order" on the case, said they believed Mackey would take over the case because Bluff was hearing civil cases. Bluff has since transitioned to criminal cases.
Defendants are allowed to ask for a new judge without explaining why as long as they state that the request is made within the bounds of the law. Because the choice was between Mackey, whom the defense wanted, and Bluff, whom they did not, the request was not surprising.
Asked Monday if this means the defense will get what they wanted by default, that he will hear the case, Mackey said, "I wouldn't make that assumption," but would not elaborate.
If the case does not go to Bluff, then the decision would likely fulfill a prosecution request that Darrow had previously turned down: to move the trial to Prescott instead of being held at the Verde Valley Justice Center. Because Darrow's court was moved this fall to the Prescott courthouse, which is also where Mackey's courtroom is located, the case could potentially be moved to Prescott.