12/18/2009 6:00:00 AM Judge: Murder suspect can skip court when he wants Williams reverses decision forcing Darrell Ketchner to attend all court hearings
Erin Taylor Miner Staff Reporter
KINGMAN - Despite Judge Rick Williams denying Darrell Ketchner's request to not attend non-critical hearings, it appears the murder suspect is getting exactly what he wanted.
Ketchner was a no-show for his hearing Nov. 9. His lawyers told the court that Ketchner was refusing to get dressed to come to court.
The previous month, Williams denied a motion by Ketchner's lawyers to waive the defendant's appearance at non-substantive hearings. County Attorney Megan McCoy said the state was concerned that the defendant's absence could open the door for an argument during appeal. Williams at the time agreed, saying that Ketchner had nothing better to do than come to court.
But after Ketchner failed to attend his Nov. 9 hearing, Williams issued a ruling in which he said the defendant wouldn't have to attend non-substantive hearings after all.
"While some may find the thought of having the defendant brought to court every few weeks for status conferences satisfying on some visceral level, such a ruling by this court would have unintended and burdensome consequences," Williams said.
The judge said he made his decision after consulting with other members of the bench as well as staff at the Mohave County Jail. He also expressed concern that transporting uncooperative defendants would create additional safety concerns for not only jail staff, but court security as well.
That order was filed with the court Dec. 14. At Ketchner's hearing the next day, his lawyer, John Napper, said Ketchner wasn't refusing to come to court but was sick the day of his hearing Nov. 9. Ketchner attended Wednesday's hearing in person.
Despite the explanation, Williams let the order allowing the suspect to miss hearings to stand.
The defense is also ordered to file written notice within 10 days of any hearings not attended by the defendant indicating that he was informed of all issues discussed in his absence.
McCoy requested that the court receive prior notice of any hearings Ketchner would miss. She said members of the victims' family would have attended Wednesday's hearing had they not been told the defendant wouldn't be present.
McCoy had also filed a motion seeking a psychological screening of the suspect since the state is seeking the death penalty, but the defense balked at the request and Williams said he wouldn't order a prescreening.
Ketchner is charged with stabbing 18-year-old Ariel Allison to death and shooting her mother in the head after breaking into the Allison home July 4.
His next appearance in court will be Jan. 25. It is not clear if Ketchner will be present.