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WHY IS THE PUBLIC BARRED FROM COURT PROCEEDINGS WHICH ARE SUPPOSED TO BE OPEN BY LAW?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jun. 23, 2011) —The following is an eyewitness account of part of the trial for Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III on two charges arising from his October 27, 2010 arrest in his home by four Monroe County sheriff’s deputies.
We went in at 9:00 this morning. One of the guys, a plainclothes policeman, tried to stop us from going into the court. We were actually at the courthouse on other business to pick up some papers at the clerk’s office. When we were greeted at the door, the man was in military tactical green, it was like a military checkpoint. He asked me, “Why are you here?” and was very hesitant to let us in. But we said we were there to get some papers from the clerk, which we did.
They let my friend in at the front door with a cell phone, but they wouldn’t allow it in the courtroom.
When we got upstairs, we said to the clerk, “It looks as if there’s a big trial going on today,” and she said, “Yes, the Walter Fitzpatrick trial.” I said, “Oh, that’s very interesting.”
They questioned us at the door if we were there for Walter’s trial, so apparently, they were screening people going in. When we went in to open the door, the officer was standing right there in plain clothes and motioned for us not to go in. It’s a public trial, so we went in anyway. We just went in and sat down. Well, he came in right after us and asked about my friend’s cell phone, and my friend said, “Look, my cell phone is off.” The officer called my friend outside and then my friend started to walk to his vehicle to put his phone away, and when he came back, they barred him from going back in to the courthouse.
When I was sitting in there, there were the district attorney, the sheriff, policemen, and a reporter who works for the sheriff’s department from The Buzz. He works for Bill Bivens. There were other people sitting there like spectators, and they were all unmarked police officers. So they were trying to make sure that there was nobody in there for the trial.
I was there for the time when Walter brought up several legitimate issues to the judge about recusing himself. I was there when the jury was seated, and Walter had asked the jury if there was anybody on the jury who is related to anyone in the courtroom such as the judge, Marty Cook, the prosecutor, etc. One of the jurors raised his hand and said, “Yes, I’m Marty Cook’s cousin.” And he was sitting on the jury. So then the judge said, “Do you want to ask me these questions in front of the jury?” and he said, “No, Your Honor, I don’t think that we should be asking these questions in front of the jurors.” So they dismissed the jurors. That’s when Walter went on a dissertation listing all the complaints he has filed. The judge was just boondoggled; he could not directly answer Walter’s questions without incriminating himself.
Walt brought up the fact that Marty Cook is a witness for the state and that she had testified against him. He asked, “How can she sit there and be part of the trial as the clerk?” He brought out trial sheets, he brought out the letters, everything. The judge just denied everything, all the way down the line. After about 20 minutes after my friend had been gone, I got worried, so I left to make a phone call and figured that they would bar me from going back in. They have arrested other people for leaving the courthouse and then trying to get back in.
The last thing I heard was that the judge was going to have it go to trial. Mr. Stutts’ argument was that all of these things which Walter was bringing up – jurisdictional issues and other things relevant to his trial – should have been done in pre-trial motions. Walter replied, “Well, I’ve already done all that.” Mr. Stutts for the state said, “We don’t have a record of it. You should have done all of this before.” And Walt said, “Well, I’ve got records right here.” He refuted back right away, had all of his ducks in a row, and answered things very politely. I was very proud of Walter; he did a very good job. He was on point with everything he was doing.
They have people walking around a block away from the courthouse in plain clothes looking at all the cars and license plates. The officer who told my friend he couldn’t go back in was Officer Goodman.