Strict security imposed on Bustamante trial
No cameras allowed in the courtroom
Friday, December 23, 2011
Alyssa Bustamante’s murder trial will be held in the new federal courthouse in Jefferson City, Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce announced Thursday afternoon. And the media will not be allowed to transmit video or other electronic reporting from the courtroom.
After several previous delays, the trial now is set to begin with opening arguments at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 30. It's being moved to the federal facility to allow for tighter security than would be feasible in the usual venue of the county courthouse, and also so that a lengthy trial will not disrupt the schedule of other cases.
Court publicizes procedures for attending trial
People who want to watch Alyssa Bustamante’s murder trial will have access to a limited number of seats when it begins.
Gallery passes will be issued to the public for each day of the trial, which is scheduled to last two weeks, from Jan. 30-Feb. 10.
But, Judge Patricia Joyce noted, “The Court has no way to know ... how long the trial actually will take. Gallery passes remain valid only so long as the case continues to be tried.”
An order by Joyce outlines the requirements for getting gallery passes, including:
• Taking a “photographic identification” (such as a Missouri driver’s license) and filling out a form, in person, in Room 305 of the Cole County Courthouse, 301 E. High St. — no later than 4 p.m. on Jan. 20 — indicating on the form each date they want a seat for the trial.
• Passes for each of the trial’s scheduled 10 days will be drawn, at random, before the trial begins, and people will be called no later than 10 a.m. Jan. 25 if they “are eligible to obtain a gallery pass for a particular day’s trial.”
However, the order added, the court expects people to answer their phone when called, and messages won’t be left.
• People who are notified that they are receiving passes “must pick up their gallery passes no later than 4 p.m. Jan. 28,” in the same room at the courthouse where the initial application was filed.
• On the day that the pass is valid, each person “must present his or her gallery pass and a photographic identification by 8:15 a.m., at the designated courtroom in the U.S. District Courthouse, 80 Lafayette St.”
That means people need to arrive at the U.S. Courthouse enough earlier to clear the building’s security inside the front doors.
• The federal courthouse has a no-electronic-media rule.
“Members of the gallery shall obey all courtroom requirements and shall not be allowed access to cellphones, smart phones, computers, laptops, tablets, or any other electronic devices capable of recording, photographing or video-recording,” Joyce’s order noted.
Jurors will be chosen in Greene County the previous week, then brought to Jefferson City for the trial.
Bustamante was 151⁄2 when she was accused of murdering Elizabeth Olten, 9, a neighbor who visited Bustamante’s home and played with the teen’s younger sister.
Bustamante will turn 18 shortly before the trial begins.
Olten was killed Oct. 21, 2009, and her body was found on Oct. 23, concealed in the woods behind a line of homes on the west side of LoMo Drive, which also is state Route D, south of the U.S. 50/Route D interchange in St. Martin’s.
The two girls’ families lived at opposite ends of that small neighborhood.
Hundreds of Mid-Missourians had helped search for Olten in almost constantly rainy conditions, from the Wednesday night when she was reported missing until her body was found Friday afternoon.
Bustamante was certified to stand trial as an adult on Nov. 18, 2009 — and indicted by the Cole County grand jury hours later.
Joyce’s four-page order says 34 seats — 14 in the main courtroom and 20 in an overflow courtroom being provided with a special closed-circuit video and audio feed — will be available to the general public for attending the trial.
Those seats will be issued to the public based on applications that must be submitted to the court by 4 p.m. Jan. 20. The 34 seats will be distributed by a lottery for each day if more than 34 people apply for them.
The federal court’s rules prohibit all “cellphones, smart phones, computers, laptops, tablets, or any other electronic devices capable of recording, photographing or video-recording” from being carried into the building.
As with any other visitor to the federal courthouse at 80 Lafayette St., just west of the old Missouri State Penitentiary, all people attending the Bustamante trial will be subject to search, and any person violating the federal court’s rules “will be removed from the courtroom and not allowed re-entry for the duration of the trial,” according to the order.
Joyce’s order also notes that media will be required to follow the same rules.
“Even had this case been tried in a state courtroom, requests for cameras or other media recording devices would have been denied in light of issues raised by the parties” in the case, Joyce said.
The complete order is posted online at www.newstribune.com/bustamante.
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