Restrictions on clothes, photography at Stenson trial

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Accused double-murderer Darold Stenson’s lawyers are going to extra lengths to ensure their client receives a fair trial.

For example, the public will not see newspaper photographs of the former Sequim-area resident in the metal handcuffs and other restraints that jail inmates wear in court and which Stenson, 60, wears during court hearings leading up to his Sept. 16 trial in Kitsap County.

The September trial will be the second for Stenson on charges of murder. He was convicted in 1994 of the murders of his wife, Denise, and his business partner, Frank Hoerner, at Stenson’s Kane Lane exotic bird farm.

He served time on death row until the conviction was overturned in May 2012 by the state Supreme Court.

Clallam County Superior Court Judge S. Brooke Taylor ruled Wednesday that only photos of Stenson from the waist up would be allowed for publication.

No restraints can be shown in photos of Stenson, Taylor said.

The restriction is among several measures proposed by Stenson’s defense team that Taylor has agreed to as the trial approaches.

The public also will not see Stenson in the black-and-white striped Clallam County jail uniform worn by him and other inmates who are segregated from the general jail population.

Others in segregation must wear the standard jail uniform.

Leg irons, handcuffs

Jail Superintendent Ron Sukert said all inmates wear leg irons and handcuffs attached to a waist chain when appearing in Superior Court for pretrial hearings, and during jury trials wear restraints that are less visible to a jury.

Stenson is allowed to wear street clothes provided by his attorneys, Taylor has ruled.

Stenson, who is in the Clallam County jail without bond, can be brought clothing by his lawyer at least 60 minutes before his court hearings if courtroom photography is requested, according to an “Order of Clarification” signed Tuesday by Judge S. Brooke Taylor.

Taylor’s order details an oral ruling that now-retired Judge Ken Williams made in November that is specific to Stenson.

Taylor was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Judge George L. Wood, who is in his 21st year on the bench, gave a historical perspective on the move.

“I can’t remember any significant restrictions on the press as to the ability to take pictures of a particular defendant,” Wood said.

“I don’t ever think it’s been in front of me that it’s been asked of me to do something other than what we normally do on photographs.”

Fair-trial concerns

The measures are meant to ensure Stenson receives a fair trial from an impartial jury, his lawyer, Roger Hunko, said Wednesday.

Stenson wears street clothing “for the benefit of the jury pool, so the jury pool does not reach a decision based on stuff they shouldn’t be shown,” Hunko said.

In addition, “there is a presumption a defendant is not supposed to be shackled in court,” Hunko said, adding that media reports often include mention of restraints when a defendant is wearing them.

The restriction is meant “to keep the public from getting influenced by the fact that seeing someone in handcuffs gives the presumption to people that the person is dangerous, which they are not supposed to have,” Hunko said.

Taylor earlier had granted a change of venue for the trial, moving it to Kitsap County because of pretrial publicity in Clallam County.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 13. 2013 5:49PM
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