In a packed courtroom in Friday Harbor on a snowy afternoon Tuesday, February 12, interim San Juan County District Court Judge Don Eaton listened to arguments on why he should and should not unseal a video. The video shows the courtroom's security camera zooming in on a juror's notebook, prosecutor's exhibit and the defense attorney's papers on January 31 during the jury trial of Dustin Schibel. As a result of the camera movements the criminal charges against Schibel were dismissed with prejudice. The case can not be tried again.
San Juan County Courthouse. Matt Pranger photo
The security camera is mounted on the wall in the corner closest to the jury box.
County Sheriff Ron Krebs was at the camera controls, which are located in the dispatch office, during the zooming in and out. Whether he was responsible for all of the movements is unknown since he gave conflicting testimony on February 1 and February 2.
When dismissing the case on Saturday, February 9, Judge Eaton released copies of screenshots but kept the video sealed. Today's hearing was to determine if it would be unsealed.
Prosecutor Randy Gaylord argued releasing the video would harm courtroom security by revealing potential blind spots. Judge Eaton also heard from several people including attorney Stephen Brandli, who filed a brief last week, and defense attorney Colleen Kenimond. All of the speakers with the exception of Gaylord and Krebs' attorney spoke in favor of the video being unsealed.
Sheriff Krebs did not attend the hearing. He wasn't required to do so. He was represented by an attorney who called in from Seattle. Both Prosecutor Gaylord and Krebs' attorney asked Judge Eaton to postpone the hearing since road conditions had prevented some people from attending. The Judge declined to do so.
Judge Eaton is expected to announce his decision at 2 p.m. Tuesday February 19 in District Court. There is a chance that he may decide to hold an evidentiary hearing before announcing his decision. That hearing would focus on potential security risks that could happen if the video was to be unsealed.
Krebs' attorney informed the judge that if the decision is to unseal the video, he would want the opportunity to appeal the decision and ask for a stay.
EDITOR's NOTE: The original article erroneously stated the Sheriff was snowed in. We apologize for the error.
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