Crime - Sacto 911

Bee lawyer goes to court to stop effort to close accused cop killer hearing

With the lawyers for Luis Bracamontes, a suspect in the killing of two deputies, once again trying to close a court hearing in the case from public view, an attorney for The Sacramento Bee filed a motion Tuesday to block closure of the Friday afternoon hearing.

Public defenders Norm Dawson and Jeffrey Barbour filed a motion last Friday seeking to close the hearing, at which Bracamontes is expected to ask permission to fire his lawyers and represent himself in the death penalty case.

Their motion, which follows two other attempts to close routine hearings from the public and the media, seeks to bar the public, reporters and even prosecutors from Friday’s hearing into what they described as “Bracamontes’ anticipated request” to face trial acting as his own attorney.

“This information should not be discussed in the presence of the prosecution,” they wrote. “Nor should it be discussed in front of others, including the media.”

Sacramento Bee attorney Steve Burns disagreed, filing a motion with Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White noting that such hearings – known as “Faretta hearings” – “typically are not closed to the public but are on-the-record hearings in open court.”

“The Bee is aware of no case suggesting a Faretta hearing should be closed to the public,” Burns wrote.

White rejected earlier attempts to close hearings in the case.

Bracamontes, accused of the October 2014 slayings of Sacramento Deputy Danny Oliver and Placer Deputy Michael Davis Jr., has a history of bizarre outbursts and actions in court hearings, and his lawyers have alternately suggested he is not mentally fit to face trial and that he cannot receive a fair trial because of publicity over the case. They are expected to seek a change of venue.

Burns argued that the public defenders are “seeking to shroud in secrecy” a hearing that should be open, and that they have presented no evidence that the hearing should be closed.

“In a county of well over one million people, defendant will get a fair trial without the drastic step of closure,” Burns wrote.

Bracamontes, a Mexican citizen who was in this country illegally at the time of the slayings, is accused of a daylong crime spree with his wife that left the deputies dead.

He faces the death penalty if convicted; his wife, Janelle Monroy, faces life in prison.

Sam Stanton: 916-321-1091, @StantonSam

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