Tuesday Sep 14 2010
Ex-cop preliminary hearing closed to public?
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
Attorney says early admission of evidence could cause prejudice
A defense attorney asked a judge Tuesday to prevent the public and media from attending a former Highway Patrol officer’s preliminary hearing. Ruben Cesar Salgado, 37, was most recently arrested for allegedly attempting to hire someone to commit murder against a woman who had allegedly previously sold him drugs and might testify against him. Salgado was originally arrested on several drug-related felonies in May, and was out on bail when the alleged attempted murder-for-hire occurred. Daniel Nicholson, Salgado’s attorney, made a request in a Roseville courtroom Tuesday to close Salgado’s upcoming preliminary hearing to the public. This would also mean no media agencies would be allowed in the courtroom. A preliminary hearing is a court proceeding in which prosecuting attorneys present their evidence to a judge, explaining why a case should go to trial. Nicholson said after the court meeting Tuesday he thinks the information presented by the prosecution Thursday would shed an unfair light on Salgado, and the best thing would be to provide evidence from both the prosecution and defense in a trial in front of a jury. “I believe in order to get a fair trial we need to present the facts to the jury instead of having half the facts distributed … and have people’s minds be predisposed,” Nicholson said. The preliminary hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Thursday in Dept. 44 of the Bill Santucci Justice Center in Roseville. According to California Penal Code 868, if a judge finds that it’s necessary to exclude the public to ensure a defendant’s right to a fair trial, he or she can remove everyone except for court employees, involved law enforcement officers, attorneys and witnesses. The prosecution can make a motion to have any victims’ family members present, which the judge would grant unless these family members would also endanger the defendant’s right to a fair trial. Nicholson said he thinks if the request were not granted, a change of venue would be necessary, because of extensive media coverage that could potentially taint prospective jurors’ opinions. “It’s not the only action, but it’s the most likely one to preserve his right to a fair trial,” he said. In his request Nicholson stated that change of venue is a great burden on everyone involved. “Exclusion of the public at this point may prevent that remedy from being invoked in the future,” the request states. In Nicholson’s request he stated certain evidence that doesn’t come forward in the preliminary hearing might hurt Salgado in the long run. “There are matters which may not be admissible at the hearing because of hearsay issues, that may be admissible at trial,” the request states. “Defendant’s statement to the police after his second arrest is highly unlikely to be admitted at the preliminary hearing, but may loom heavy in his subsequent defense at trial. This court may take judicial notice of the requests for recording devices in the courtroom as strong evidence that testimony will be (spread) in a manner that will blanket the local community.” Nicholson states that because this case has been highly reported on by the media, the prosecution’s evidence revealed in the preliminary hearing would be spread quickly throughout the area. “This story is regularly run as the lead or one of the top stories on local television news broadcasts from channels 3, 10, 13 and 40,” the request states. “Local news media have made numerous requests to have their cameras in the courtroom during proceedings. Those requests have been granted over objection of the defense in the last two proceedings.” Prosecuting Attorney Doug Van Breemen said the Placer County District Attorney’s office is against Nicholson’s request. “We will be opposing it,” Van Breemen said outside the courtroom Tuesday. “It’s a public courtroom.” Judge Jeffrey Penney said an answer to the request would come before the preliminary hearing. “That matter will be discussed and decided on in this courtroom Thursday morning,” Penney said. Reach Bridget Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org