Security scarce at courthouse when Ronnie Lee Gardner murdered attorney
In hindsight, it was just a matter of time before a Gardner-like incident happened, said former Salt Lake County Sheriff N.D. "Pete" Hayward. Because the public had unlimited access to the building, "there is probably little, if anything, we can do" to prevent a shooting, he told the Deseret News in a story published a day after the shootings. "There is absolutely nothing to stop someone from walking into a courtroom with a loaded gun. There are no security precautions taken unless the bailiff believes there is a threat or has been warned of a threat."
Kirk, the bailiff wounded by one of Gardner's bullets, said security was something that had come up in conversation at the courthouse. In an April 5, 1985, Deseret News story, Kirk said he wanted to see metal detectors installed and changes made in the way prisoners were transported.
"We're lucky we haven't had a shooting in one of our courtrooms," he said then. "That's something that will happen if they don't take steps to prevent it."
Security at the courthouse is greatly improved. "Absolutely Gardner changed that," Morgan said.
In 1998, the 3rd District Court, along with Juvenile Court and the Utah Supreme Court, moved into the new, multimillion-dollar Matheson Courthouse, on State Street between 400 South and 500 South. Critics called it the "Taj Mahal" because of its price tag and elaborate design.
The building came with new security measures. Courtrooms are equipped to conduct video arraignments from the Salt Lake County Jail, cutting down on transportation issues and security risks. Inmates no longer share hallways and waiting rooms with the general public.
The Matheson Courthouse includes three stories of underground parking, with secure entrances for judges and employees and a separate entrance for prisoner transports, away from the public.
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