Judges produce statements from jurors concerned about courthouse security

MONTESANO — Some potential jurors are balking at entering the Grays Harbor County courthouse over security fears in the wake of an attack on a sheriff’s deputy and a judge.

As part of their legal response to a petition before the state Supreme Court the Superior Court judges have released a number of written statements from potential jurors asking to be excused from jury duty. After the attacks, the judges brought security orders requiring added protection. The county commissioners are petition the state Supreme Court to overturn the orders.

Some of the statements are from the days after the March 9 shooting of deputy Polly Davin and the stabbing of Superior Court Judge Dave Edwards.

“Due to recent events at the courthouse, I don’t feel like you can provide a safe environment for a juror or anyone for that matter,” one juror wrote. “Until changes are made, I ask you to be excused.”

“I will not enter this courthouse until you have metal detectors and real security,” another juror wrote. “Deputies in the building are OBVIOUSLY not enough to protect me.”

“I do not feel safe in the courthouse — sitting in court — after the recent events/shooting in the courthouse due to the lack of security,” a juror wrote.

But other comments are more recent.

“I am apprehensive to go to the court house even with the new metal detectors because of the incident recently,” one juror wrote in asking to be excused from jury duty.

Judge Mark McCauley says he’s still seeing apprehension from jurors since the March 9 shooting.

“A secure courthouse is necessary to protect the public, including jurors, witnesses, parties to litigation, victims of crime, attorneys, county employees, judicial staff and judges,” McCauley said. “The importance of this has been illustrated since the March 9 attack by several jurors called for jury service, who have declined to attend court because of the lack of safety.”

The juror profile comments were released to help bolster the judges’ case that their security orders should stay in place. The orders mandate that metal detectors be in place at the courthouse at Montesano and Juvenile Court at Junction City. The orders also mandate deputies remain in court rooms and detail the items that can and cannot be taken into the courthouse.

The commissioners have since put in place temporary contracts for three weapons screeners and a metal detector. A second metal detector was also donated to the county and an X-ray machine is now being loaned to the county. The commissioners also authorized the Sheriff to hire a new deputy director of security. And the Sheriff has made sure corrections personnel and deputies roam the courthouse. Attorneys for the commissioners are arguing before the state supreme court that the security orders were put in place without any hearing or notice and are no longer necessary because of the recent upgrades.

One juror pointed a finger at the county commissioners for not acting fast enough.

“Due to the recent shooting and stabbing at the courthouse and until our county commissioners get some common sense and get real security, I really don’t want to take my chances,” the juror wrote.