Thursday, June 28, 2012

Attorney calls reporter to stand, tries to exclude her from courtroom during testimony of other witnesses

Bigheart Times Publisher Louise Red Corn recently found herself being called to testify during a preliminary hearing that she was covering and then having to defend her right to be in the Osage County courtroom.
Red Corn reported that she hadn't been subpoenaed by defense attorney Gentner Drummond and hadn't witnessed the alleged assault at issue in the hearing.
Red Corn told Special District Court Judge Stuart Tate that Drummond's announcement of her as his witness was no more than a ploy to prevent the newspaper from covering the public hearing.
Red Corn and Drummond had a run-in nearly a year ago when she questioned why an entire Osage County divorce case, including the names of the couple, lawyers and judge, had been closed to the public. Even the order sealing the case was closed.
Drummond was the attorney who had sought the closure. The case file was opened after Red Corn justifiably raised hell over the secrecy.
He wasn't any more successful in keeping Red Corn out of the courtroom during the preliminary hearing earlier this month.
In Red Corn's story on the hearing, she noted that Drummond was acting as defense attorney for his cousin, Thatcher Drummond, who is charged with assaulting a state trooper, escape from arrest and a half-dozen misdemeanors, ranging from DUI and possession of marijuana to running a stop sign.
She also noted that Thatcher Drummond's family "is among the wealthiest in Osage County, owning tens of thousands of acres on which they run cattle and wild horses, in addition to having other businesses."
At the beginning of the hearing, Gentner Drummond asked the judge to exclude witnesses from the hearing. Then, he announced that he was going to call Red Corn as a witness and asked the judge to tell her to leave the courtroom.
Good luck with that.
After Red Corn's objection, Drummond and First Assistant District Attorney Mike Fisher spent 10 minutes with the judge in his chambers. Drummond emerged to announce that he was withdrawing his request and that he would "invite Ms. Red Corn to sit through these proceedings and take copious notes."
She did.
When it was her turn to testify, Red Corn said she hadn't interviewed the trooper or his superiors. The morning after the incident, she had gone to the Sheriff's Office to ask about it, had seen the trooper there and made a comment to him about an injury under his eye. The trooper didn't say a word to her, Red Corn testified.
Thatcher Drummond was bound over for an arraignment. A pre-trial date was set for Aug. 16.
Wonder if Gentner Drummond will try to keep her out of that courtroom as well?

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.

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