DeMocker defense, prosecutor to discuss plea agreement
PRESCOTT - Despite a lack of enthusiasm on the part of both defense and prosecution in the Steven DeMocker murder case, the two sides will meet this week at the request of a judge to see whether a "non-trial resolution" - a plea agreement - can be worked out to avoid having to hold a retrial.
DeMocker's retrial on a charge that he murdered his ex-wife, Carol Kennedy, in 2008 is now scheduled for February 2012.
Both sides appear to believe they have a winnable case; on Sept. 16, defense attorney Craig Williams filed a motion in which he said, "The defendant has decided against participating in (a) settlement conference."
Deputy County Attorney Jeff Paupore, in response, said, "The settlement conference will be of no benefit without the participation of the defendant."
A source familiar with the case said that the County Attorney's Office was not interested in a settlement, but would accede to the judge's request.
Yavapai County Superior Court Presiding Judge David L. Mackey, who first suggested the idea of working out the plea agreement, insisted the two sides make an effort. Citing Rule 17.4, he said, "The rule provides that the court may order participation in a settlement conference." Noting that the rule only requires the parties to agree if the trial judge holds the conference, and that he had appointed two retired judges to conduct it, Mackey said, "Defendant's decision against participating in a settlement conference is of no consequence."
In an Oct. 17 court appearance, Williams renewed his client's objection to taking a plea. Mackey again said the two parties would have to try.
Mackey will not comment on the reasoning behind his decision, but he has said several times that he anticipates replacing Judge Warren Darrow, who is currently assigned to the case. Darrow has been hearing the DeMocker motions but has also been tied up for months with the ongoing James Arthur Ray sweat lodge trial.
Mackey said that were the case to be reassigned, only he or Judge Michael Bluff would have time to fit the lengthy trial into their calendars.
The settlement conference is slated for Tuesday and Wednesday. It is closed to the public but, if any agreement is reached, it will be announced in open court.