In the courtroom, it’s not my style to spin the camera around 180 degrees to the gallery so as to catch the reaction of families–either the victim’s or the defendant’s. They don’t need me to add to their grief and stress. Unless they choose to draw attention to themselves with a verbal or physical, out-of-order outburst, I give them their space, as much respect to their privacy as I can under the circumstances, and focus on the legal proceedings.
But maybe this was one of those times I should have bent my rule, because it was a pivotal moment–Superior Court Judge Craig Matheson refused to reconsider his previous ruling and denied a defense motion to dismiss charges against Kurtis Chapman: I turned when I heard a sob, a sob of relief, from Shenay Greenough’s mother, being comforted by Greenough’s sister and grandmother.
From the defense table, and this I will show you, Kurtis Chapman put his folded hands to his mouth, blew out a breath, and gazed forward.
What Chapman was thinking, only he knows, but the young man had walked into the courtroom 40 minutes earlier, appearing relatively upbeat, possibly hopeful that he would walk out of court a free man.
The defense team, two prominent public defenders, argued again that a police detective violated Chapman’s civil rights when he “eavesdropped” on a recorded jailhouse conversation between Chapman and defense attorney Mathew Rutt, in which Rutt says included privileged attorney-client defense strategies.
The detective had burned a CD from the jailhouse original and notified then prosecutor Steve Lowe that he had the goods on Chapman. Lowe says he immediately knew the state had crossed the line, ordered the detective to destroy the CD, and then told the judge what happened.
However, “toothpaste out of the tube,” Rutt would later argue, and said the state acted in bad faith and tried to hide the Sixth Amendment infringement by destroying the evidence. All charges should be dropped.
Judge Matheson, standing by his previous ruling, says the circumstances here are different from other cases (in which judges did dismiss charges) when law enforcement secretly taped conversations, and then tried to cover it up.
Matheson says the detective made an honest mistake. When the detective passed the CD around to other officers and shared what Chapman and Rutt said to each other wasn’t the brightest thing to do, but Matheson says doesn’t merit dismissing murder charges. The judge, however, has barred all police officers who heard the CD from testifying in the trial.
After the hearing, Greenough’s grandmother came up to me, thanked me for being there, and said the family may hold a ceremony on the one-year anniversary of the woman’s death. They’d like me to come.
It will be one year next month Pasco Police discovered the body of Shenay Greenough beneath the porch where Chapman lived. The coroner would determine the woman, 19, had been strangled in her final weeks of pregnancy.
Chapman is scheduled to go on trial in June for second degree murder in the death of Greenough, and first degree manslaughter for the death of her unborn child.