Judge hears arguments in Pollard case
August 21, 2015
Steamboat Springs — Cole Pollard, the man accused of murdering 22-year-old Patricia Richmond, appeared in court Friday.
The purpose of the hearing was for Judge Shelley Hill to consider a request that Pollard be allowed to wear street clothes and be free of shackles during court appearances.
Defendants typically appear without shackles and in street clothes during a trial. The argument is that jurors could unfairly form a negative opinion of a defendant based on the defendant's appearance.
Considering whether to allow a defendant to be free of shackles and in street clothes during pre-trial hearings is new territory for the 14th Judicial District. A similar request has been made for Lucas and Kristen Johnson, the couple charged with murder in connection with the death of Edward Zimmerman.
Routt County Public Defender Sheryl Uhlmann made several arguments on Pollard's behalf.
She said Pollard being shackled in court would limit his ability to communicate in writing with his attorneys and would ultimately represent an infringement of Pollard's constitutional rights.
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"These fundamental rights are implicated," Uhlmann said.
Uhlmann was also concerned about the amount of media attention the case has received. Prosecutors contend Pollard strangled Richmond to death, had sex with her and then fled to a remote area before police took him into custody. A suicide note was found.
While media cameras have not yet been allowed into the courtroom for Pollard's case, Uhlmann said cameras could be allowed in days leading up to the trial. Uhlmann also said media oftentimes will describe a defendant's appearance in pre-trial hearings.
Potential jurors could also be attending the pre-trial hearings, Uhlmann argued.
"Anyone that comes in this courtroom is a potential juror in this case," she said.
Routt County Jail Lt. Michelle Richardson was called to the stand by prosecutors to explain her position on the issue.
She said over the past few years, the jail has been doing everything it can to increase security, and requiring defendants to wear shackles during pre-trial hearings is not designed to be punishment.
"It's designed for the safety and security of the building and anyone inside," Richardson said.
Richardson said that, to her knowledge, no other jail in Colorado is allowing unrestrained inmates into court, except for trial.
Pollard has been behaving well so far while in custody, Richardson said, but inmates can become volatile leading up to a trial.
"We're just starting to get into the emotional phases," Richardson said.
Richardson said increasing security for unrestrained defendants during a trial is already burdensome.
Routt County Sheriff's Office courthouse security officer Paul Yonekawa said ideally, they would want five additional deputies when an inmate is unrestrained in the courtroom.
"There’s always concern with the unknown," Yonekawa said. "The more mobility that is provided, the more potential for possible outbursts and other disturbances in the courtroom."
Uhlmann said she would not be requesting that all defendants be allowed to be unrestrained and in street clothes during court appearances. She said it was more important for the high-profile cases in which there is intense media scrutiny.
At the conclusion of the one-hour hearing, Hill said she would issue her opinion in writing.
Pollard's preliminary hearing is currently scheduled for Oct. 23.