Stacey Barker Defense Asks For Change Of Venue
On January 14 there was another pretrial hearing in the case of California vs. Stacey M. Barker at the Antelope Valley (AV) Municipal Courthouse in Lancaster, CA.
Stacey Barker is a 25 year old woman from Lancaster, CA accused of suffocating her 18 month old daughter, Emma Leigh Barker, to death on March 18, 2009. On April 27 Barker was arrested and the charges filed against the young mother include murder, assault on a child causing death and child abuse. The complaint alleges that Barker willfully caused and permitted the child to be injured and harmed and that injury resulted in death. Booking details. Barker formally entered a not guilty plea to all counts on August 12, 2009.
As noted in earlier posts on katfishponders about this case, friends of katfishponders are attending the hearings in this case. The information provided here is compiled from various posts and e-mail correspondence about the hearing details so this report is not verbatim and may not be reported in the exact order that it was in court.
Superior Court Judge Hayden Zackey presided over this hearing. Deputy District Attorney (DDA)S. Kelly Cromer is representing the people and Stacey Barker is being represented by Public Defender (PD) Roberto F. Dager.
The defense filed several motions that were addressed in court today. (We are trying to get copies of the motions.) They were a Change of Venue motion, a Discovery motion, a Pitchess motion and a Brady motion.
The first motion addressed was a defense request for a Change of Venue. PD Dager told the court the case has received so much attention in the AV that it is tainting the jury pool (jerking his thumb back towards the camera and reporter from Time Warner, a local cable company, that are in court filming today‘s proceedings, as if to make his point). Mr. Dager said the local newspaper has ran 15-16 stories on the case and added there are internet blogs that are reporting on this case. He said,” These dumb, stupid, idiotic, moronic people blog on things they don’t know or things they think they know in an effort to turn people or potential jurors against my client.” ( Dager reportedly tipped his head in direction of “our friends” as he said this....whatever.)
Judge Zackey cited some case law that we were not able to get down (sorry) and said there are 5 points to consider before a Change of Venue could be granted or denied. Although the judge didn’t make a ruling he did address the 5 points in relation to this case:
1. Nature and Gravity of the Crime.
A child being killed is not a cause for Change of Venue. This court has heard other
cases of children being killed.
2. Nature and gravity of news coverage.
The news media was at a peak for a while, acknowledging there was even national
coverage for a time, such as CNN, Nancy Grace, and other major news outlets, that
coverage was almost a year ago and has died down.
3. Size of the community.
You ( defense) have only included Lancaster and Palmdale in your argument that
the jury pool is only about a thousand people. The jury pool extends as far as Santa
Clarita and outlying areas, there are many more potential jurors in our AV jury pool.
(Antelope Valley is part of Los Angeles County)
4. Status of family in the community.
The Barker family is not well known in the community aside from their own circle
of friends and family.
5. Prominence and popularity of the victim in the community.
The victim is a child of a very young age and jurors in any community will have
sympathy for a small child that has been killed whether it be in LA, the AV, or any
other community in the land. It should be noted that Dager interrupted and said,
”found dead”. The judge corrected himself and said, “found dead”.
Judge Zackey did say that if the motion for Change of Venue is denied, he would like to keep the case in his court. “Our friends” say that Dager did seem pleased that Judge Zackey would keep the case if his motion was denied, but told the court he would ask that all media and news reporters and people in the gallery that report on this case on blogs be kept out of the court if COV was denied!
Judge Z said he would have to do some research on this, because of the "Freedom Of Information Act", the community has the right to know what is going on.
(Katfish here…. Public scrutiny of a criminal trial enhances the quality and safeguards the integrity of the fact finding process, with benefits to both the defendant and the society as a whole... .. permitting the public to participate in and serve as a check upon the judicial process is an essential component in our structure of self-government. The right of the public and the press to attend and observe judicial proceedings is constitutionally rooted in the First Amendment. I think Mr. Dager is well aware that the First Amendment prohibits the court from blocking the public and the media…intimidation tactics, IMO.)
The Discovery motion requests a video made by J. Collins and E. Edmonds of the Field Investigation Service Unit (FISU). PD Dager said they (the FISU) had done a measurement of the crime scene and in doing so had used Detective Nava as Stacey Barker. Dager contends that Nava and Barker are not of the same stature so if the video comes in as evidence he will need to get a professional that is the same stature as Barker to do the measurements again which could delay the proceedings at least 6 months, adding he did not want that delay. (???? It is not clear to katfishponders what crime scene the defense is referring to, the Lancaster City Park where Barker first claimed that Emma was abducted and she was attacked as she put Emma in the car or the location where Emma’s body was found.) Dager also said he wants the reports and raw notes from Collins and Edmonds. DDA S. Kelly Cromer told the court she has no written reports or raw notes from Collins and Edmonds because the notes and report weren’t necessary since Barker led them to the baby’s body. Judge Zackey told the defense if there are no written reports or raw notes he can't make the DA give you what they don't have, adding he won’t have them (Collins and Edmonds) write a report for the DA just to give it to you.
The next motion addressed is the Pitchess motion. In the Pitchess motion the defense is requesting the personnel files of Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Detective Sandra Nava and a Detective (?) McCarthy. The defense would like to know if they have ever been accused of ‘coercive tactics” in the past in order to elicit a confession. Detective Nava testified during the Preliminary Hearing that Barker made some very incriminating statements to police....I guess we can see where the defense is going regarding those statements.
(Pitchess is the partial name of a California court case that established a criminal defendant's right to information about a police officer's misconduct or dishonesty when the defendant alleges in a declaration that the officer used excessive force or lied about the events surrounding the defendant's arrest.)
There was a Attorney for the Sheriff's Department present (didn’t catch her last name, her first name is Trina), she was not called to speak but was told to be back on the 28th for a hearing that will be held in Judges chambers (in camera). When the Pitchess motion is granted, the court examines the records in camera with only the custodian of records present.
The last motion from the defense is a Brady motion. (A Brady motion is a defendant's request for evidence concerning a material witness which is favorable to the defense and to which the defense may be entitled. Favorable evidence includes not only evidence that tends to exculpate the accused, but also evidence that may impeach the credibility of a government witness.)
In this Brady motion the defense is requesting what is known as the Ribe box. The motion cites case law from “California v Salazar”.Judge Zackey asks the public defender if he had reviewed the Salazar case. When Dager answered no, the Judge told Dager he really should review the case. Salazar did involve Los Angeles County Deputy Coroner James K. Ribe who performed the autopsy on Emma Barker.
The relationship between the Pitchess and Brady motions are explained at this link. There is also information at the link about the Ribe box and the Salazar case. A state appellate court overturned the murder conviction of Salazar for killing an infant girl in 1996, ruling that the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office deliberately concealed from the defense the Ribe box (information about prior cases when forensic pathologist Dr. James Ribe had given inconsistent testimony and/or had changed opinions regarding time of death and/or cause of death.).
DDA Cormer tells the court that the state wants some discovery from the defense as well, a video and 2 photo albums. PD Dager says that he will have them for her on the next court date...Cormer spoke up and said "Judge if it were the PD asking for this you would have made me make it available to them in 3 days time". Evidently Judge Zackey agrees, he tells Dager it doesn’t take long to burn a DVD, and asks when could he have it to Cormer? Dagger said by the end of the day. Judge adds that it does take some time to copy 2 photo albums of color pictures... then Cormer tells the court if the defense gives her the photo albums she will copy them herself and give them back today. All 3 said OK to that.
DDA Cormer next tells the court that there are 2 witnesses on the list that the state feels the public defender has not diligently tried to find and she does not want them to show up on the eve of trial, adding she wants to know what they will be saying on the stand well before they are called on. Dagger said, “then have the DA'S office try to find them I have tried and cannot find them“. Judge Z said if they do appear on eve of trial we will deal with it at that time.
Although the 2 missing witnesses from the defense witness list are not named, Judge Zackey does ask about some of the other names on the list. Zackey asks Dager about Mindy Mechanic, Dager tells the court she is a Ph.D. and Zackey adds something about her testifying about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). There is also a Dr. Leo that is a expert on "False confessions", and a Dr. Harry Bonnell, a Forensic Pathologist who will dispute Dr. Ribe's findings.
Cormer speaks up, "Judge, he told me the doctor is full of shit". Dager looked stunned and said " I did not say shit" (they were like little kids telling on each other, Uh huh, Naw ah, back and forth) until Judge Zackey finally said, "the word SHIT will not be used in my courtroom" that was so funny everyone laughed.
With that settled, Judge Zackey asks Stacey if she wants to attend the in camera meeting on January 28 in his chambers. She said, ”no”. The next pretrial hearing will be on February 8.
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