Yesterday’s revelation that live-blogging the courtroom proceedings was no bueno means your daily updates will be a lot less frequent than hoped. I’m considering still taking notes in live-blog fashion, but posting them en masse at the close of the trial each evening. That way you get the timeline of events and major developments as they unfolded, but I don’t break any rules and get myself thrown out of court.
After the 3 p.m. recess yesterday, the attorneys met with the judge in chambers to discuss the remainder of objections to items of evidence. I’m about to head to the courthouse for today’s activities, which include jury selection. Follow the jump for a few more nuggets from Monday that I didn’t have a chance to post.
The defense wanted to exclude use of Father Stephen Swann’s employment contract, which included his salary. ESD said “there was no question who the headmaster of the school was” and therefore showing the contract was unnecessary. The family’s attorneys countered that, as the head of a stated charity or 501 (c) 3 organization, the salary of the top employee was relevant. Judge D’Metria Benson ruled the contract would be allowed as evidence, but only in part. While Swann’s job description and responsibility would be made known to the jury, his salary will be omitted.
Another contentious item of evidence was the ESD credit card statement for J. Nathan Campbell. The plaintiffs argued that as the school had issued the card, its purchases should have been scrutinized more heavily. Brent Walker referenced beer and hotel room charges that he said were improper, and, in the case of the latter, were used to perpetrate sexual assault of Jane Doe II.
“It goes to show ESD doesn’t monitor its teachers and ignores red flags,” Walker said.
Benson ruled the credit card statement would be allowed as evidence.
I don’t have any of the plaintiff’s objections to ESD’s evidence, as those discussions took place behind closed doors.
UPDATE 4:30 p.m.
As I had to file a story for our print edition, I took a three-hour absence from court today while they were selecting the jury. When I returned to catch the end of the day’s proceedings, I found the courtroom empty save for interns and Benson, who told me the trial would resume tomorrow.
Side notes: I still have to cover the rest of the goings-on in Preston Hollow, so there will be gaps from time to time in my courtroom coverage. I left a message about blogging during recesses with the court clerk, so we’ll see where that goes. I’m totally with everyone who says I have a right to report what happens in open court. The thing is, a judge has a lot of leeway on what she allows in her own court, and I’m trying to stay out of jail so I’m a tad on the cautious side after being threatened with imprisonment this a.m.
At any rate, here are my notes from the (very brief) open session of court today. We’re offering all this reportage to subscribers and non-subscribers alike, just promise you’ll chip in for bail money. Deal?
8:55 a.m. There are four bailiffs outside Benson’s court. One is collecting cell phones, and another tells me if I “do anything I’m not supposed to do” she’ll personally take me to jail. I spent the next five minutes attempting to memorize Dan’s cell phone number before scrawling it on my hand.
9:35 a.m. Sen. Royce West and Chrysta Castañeda for ESD and Charla Aldous and Brent Walker for the Does are all MIA, as is Judge Benson. Word in the peanut gallery is they are in chambers, but no one knows for sure.
10 a.m. Benson is holding other civil cases in her chambers, no reference made to ESD lawsuit at all by clerk announcing cases.
10:30 a.m. Court goes into open session but microphones appear to be turned off or down. It’s nearly impossible to hear what is being said. Compounding this auditory difficulty, all spectators are required to sit in the last two rows of the courtroom in preparation for jury selection. I can barely hear Castañeda ask for a motion of continuance, which Walker objects to on the grounds of timeliness. Benson denies the motion.
10:40 a.m. The possibility of Sarah Campbell (ex-wife of the alleged assaulter J. Nathan Campbell) being deposed is brought up, presumably by Castañeda (again, auditory difficulties made attribution of this part murky). Walker objects, saying when they wanted to depose her, ESD blocked it under “spousal exclusion,” which prevents married people from testifying against each other.
“I get the sense there’s a game going on here,” Walker said.
Castañeda disagrees, saying that, “ESD did not block of the deposition of Sarah Campbell in the fall. ESD sought the deposition of Sarah Campbell.”
Either way, a “Quash” is granted. Sarah Campbell will not be deposed.
10:55 a.m. ESD files its motion for continuance as Exhibit No. 1, and the quash of Sarah Campbell’s deposition as Exhibit No. 2. Walker does not object.
11:10 a.m. Benson pulls the microphone close to make an announcement about jury forms, proving she is aware of the use, range, and properties of a microphone.
11:12 a.m. Mysterious drilling sound rings out multiple times in court. Benson goes to investigate. Karma, anyone?
11:30 a.m. The jury pool enters the court, 50 people in all with 28 men and 22 women. Benson announces that the trial is expected to run four to six weeks, which eliminates about half of the pool.