CAMP VERDE - Since October of 2010, accused murderer Steven DeMocker has been living in a solitary confinement cell at the Yavapai County Jail in Camp Verde, a situation his attorneys have said is "not a humane arrangement."
The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office denied The Daily Courier permission to view a solitary confinement cell, officially known as "administrative segregation." In an email denying the request, spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn cited "security concerns" as the reason.
The YCSO did, however, provide photographs of a cell D'Evelyn said is an "exact duplicate of the dorm where DeMocker is housed."
D'Evelyn said, "All inmates in these dorms are allowed one half-hour per day of time outside their cell - phones, showers, etc., are permitted during this time. The time period rotates each day among the inmates assigned to these dorms. Each inmate has direct contact with detention officers via intercom available from their cell."
DeMocker's defense team, which is prohibited from speaking publicly by a court-imposed gag order, has argued in filings and open court that holding their client in solitary confinement, when he has yet to be convicted of a crime, for such a prolonged period is unreasonable and harmful to DeMocker's mental health.
Attorney Craig Williams wrote, in a motion to change the conditions of his release, that DeMocker's solitary confinement "presumably relates back to an Oct. 4, 2010, allegation that there was an 'ordered beat-down' on an inmate, Jerald Lee." He argued that an investigation showed there was no such "beat-down" ordered.
Deputy County Attorney Jack Fields said the defense knows exactly why DeMocker is being kept in solitary. "There are specific reasons related to the security of the facility and of DeMocker himself, and the defense is aware of those," he said.
"One cannot argue with a straight face that solitary confinement is anything but punishment," Williams said.
Deputy County Attorney Jeffery Paupore wrote that "This defendant has continued to break the law even while incarcerated" in his response to the motion.
Judge Warren Darrow heard oral arguments on Monday in which Williams said DeMocker should be released on his own recognizance, have his bond reduced, or be moved to the Coconino County jail.
Darrow will issue a written ruling on the motion.
Williams quoted Sen. John McCain, who said, "It's an awful thing, solitary," in describing his prisoner-of-war days in a 15 by 15 foot cell.
DeMocker's cell is 7 feet by 11 feet.