Again deeming it necessary to shield potential jurors from some evidence before trial, a federal judge planned to close hearings Friday for members of the Singer and Swapp families, charged in the bombing of the Kamas LDS Stake Center.
U.S. District Judge Bruce S. Jenkins reserved the right to close the pretrial hearings, now in their fourth day, after granting a defense motion that some evidence would make it difficult to select an impartial jury for the scheduled April 6 trial.Vickie Singer, her son John Timothy Singer, her son-in-law Addam Swapp and Swapp's brother Jonathan Swapp were indicted on nine federal counts relating to the Jan. 16 bombing and a subsequent 13-day standoff with authorities at the family's Marion, Summit County, compound.
The standoff ended Jan. 28 in a gun battle that left state Corrections Lt. Fred House dead and Addam Swapp wounded.
Following secret hearings Friday morning on the defendants' competency and requests for separate trials, attorneys planned to continue public arguments on Vickie Singer's motion to suppress evidence from her personal diary and prayer box during trial.
Attorney Kathryn Collard argued Thursday that Singer's constitutional rights were violated when the diary and box were seized from her private bedroom, and she requested that they be returned to her client.
The diary, which Collard said contained eight volumes of several thousand pages written during 17 years, should not be used as evidence against Singer on the grounds that it would be self-incriminating.
"She poured her heart out into these," Collard said, asking Jenkins to read them for himself before ruling.
The seizure of the diary and prayer box was unlawful and violated constitutional rights of protection from unreasonable search and seizure, self-incrimination and rights to freedom of religion and privacy, Collard said.
"To use them as evidence against her is to allow her to be convicted by her own words," she said.
Collard also argued that the search warrant was not valid because authorities were aware of the diary before issuing the warrant, but "couched the warrant in general terms" because of its illegality.
Robert Swehla, special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said the diary was seized by federal agents because he determined it could be "evidentiary."
He said he was unaware that there was anything improper about seizing the diary. The box was not seized by federal agents, he said, but later was taken by state authorities.
Earlier Thursday, federal agents testified that while transporting John Timothy Singer from the family's Marion ranch after the standoff ended, Singer casually discussed the events surrounding the siege.
Allan Galyan, ATF special agent from Fresno, Calif., told Jenkins that at first, during the car ride into Salt Lake City, Singer wouldn't talk with the agents, but then said "he'd tell us the story."
Singer, 21, who is confined to a wheelchair, signed his Miranda rights given by Galyan before the trio left for Salt Lake, Galyan testified.
Driving the vehicle was Felix Garcia, special ATF agent in Lubbock, Texas, who questioned Singer while Galyan took notes.
Authorities have said Singer is their prime suspect in House's death and that FBI ballistics tests indicate the bullet that killed House came from a rifle owned by Singer.