‘We just need silence in the courtroom,’ judge says
The courtroom will be open when a Douglas County judge determines whether a teen will face trial in a Lawrence boy’s shooting death, but there will be strict rules for those in attendance.
No one will be allowed to bring their cellphones into the courtroom during Monday’s hearing for 18-year-old Derrick Reed, and those in attendance must be silent. If anyone but the attorneys and witnesses speak, court security will remove them, even if they’re just saying hello — and there will be no appeal, Douglas County District Court Judge Sally Pokorny said.
Reed is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Kamarjay Shaw, 14, who was shot and killed on March 18, 2023. (Read more about the case in the articles linked below.)
The rules come after proceedings were delayed during a June hearing in the highly emotional case.
Some of Kamarjay’s family members were arguing that they were being treated unfairly because the prosecution’s witnesses, Kamarjay’s friends, had been barred from entering the courtroom, but certain individuals who were present and may have been involved with the shooting incident or aftermath were allowed to stay. Once the judge cleared the courtroom, some brief altercations between the two sides took place outside, and some people were placed in handcuffs.
After that hearing, the judge opted to close the courtroom for a July hearing and stream proceedings on YouTube instead to ensure the hearing was still accessible to the public without creating any security issues.
“We just need silence in the courtroom,” she said.
If someone pulls out a candy bar or a drink, they’re leaving, Pokorny said. And she said if three people are ejected from the courtroom, she was closing it. She said nobody has the time or capacity to “spend the entire day policing the public.”
Defense attorney Mark Hartman said he had advocated for individual sanctions all along, and he welcomed the plan. Chief Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Tatum said she appreciated the judge’s thoughtfulness and that she thought it was important that the public be allowed to attend.
Lt. Chris Johnston of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said court security was also in agreement with the plan.
Johnston mentioned that there were issues during the June hearing with some witnesses being allowed to sit in the courtroom while others were not. Pokorny said the issue was not that witnesses who were going to be called to testify were in the courtroom, but rather people who “other persons felt had information” about the case.
However, Pokorny said the sequestration rule would be invoked, meaning that anyone who is going to be called to testify will not be allowed to listen to the hearing until after their testimony. That might not include everyone who knows or thinks they know something about the case, but Pokorny said the attorneys need to explain that to the people who will be there.
Hartman said he anticipated subpoenaing LaTouche Shaw, Kamarjay’s father, to testify, but that he would be out of town on Monday. He asked that the preliminary hearing be split to two dates in order to get LaTouche’s testimony.
Tatum asked the judge to issue a warrant for another witness who has failed to appear for two prior subpoenas. Pokorny said she thinks there needs to be another step that takes place before she issues an in-custody warrant for the witness to appear. She said she thinks the statute is “amazingly unclear” about what needs to happen, and she agrees that there should be consequences for people who don’t appear on court orders, but she wanted to make sure the process was done correctly.
Reed, who was 17 at the time of the shooting but recently had a birthday, is being tried as an adult. The judge also denied his motion for immunity from prosecution, which alleged that the shooting was in self-defense.
At Monday’s preliminary hearing, Pokorny will determine whether there is enough evidence to bind Reed over for trial.
Reed remains in custody of the Douglas County jail on a $500,000 cash or surety bond.
The hearing is set to begin at 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 14. It will be livestreamed over YouTube, also, Pokorny said. That will appear on the court’s YouTube page, youtube.com/@douglascountykansasdistric6556.
Court security will have printouts to advise those in attendance of the judge’s rules.