Throughout the murder trial held in the tiny Coalville courtroom, members of the Singer and Swapp families attempted to talk with Ann House - widow of law enforcement official Fred House, who was killed in the explosive climax to the standoff at the Singer home in 1988.
The lack of separate waiting rooms for the families to retreat to in between court hearings made it difficult to avoid each other."It was apparent from the beginning that the Singers/Swapps had something they wanted to tell Ann.
"Every time Ann was left alone, someone would try to come up to her," said Dawn House, Fred's sister. "We simply didn't want any contact with them. We had enough trauma without having to worry about protecting Ann from these people."
Finally, a member of the House family asked Heidi Swapp to please not talk with Ann.
But after the verdicts were returned, Ann was alone in the courthouse for a few minutes.
"Heidi told Ann there was a conspiracy and that Fred had really been killed by the cops," House said.
"A trial is a time when all your grief and emotions are on the surface," she continued. "The family of the victim is worried about not breaking down, about being strong. You feel scrutinized by the public. You feel invaded. There was no place we could go in that courthouse without finding the Singers and the Swapps."
Having a private place for the families to escape the threat of confrontation by the defendants' family and the public would have given the House family a needed reprieve, said House.
Third District Judge Michael Murphy, who presided over the Coalville trial, also felt the pressure of keeping the families of the defendants and victims separate within a crowded, outdated courtroom.
"I felt obligated to give equal access to both families. I had to be concerned about three defendants whose guilt had not been determined in my court and a family who had lost a husband, brother and son. I had do to the best I could to be a buffer to prevent them from bumping into each other."
A member of the Commission of Justice in the 21st Century, Murphy strongly supports the commission's recommendation for separate and secure waiting areas to be provided in courthouses.
In many Utah courthouses - including Salt Lake's busy Metropolitan Hall of Justice and Ogden's historical facility - child witnesses sit directly across from the accused perpetrator, members of opposing gangs try to intimidate each other in hallways and rape victims meet defendants face to face.
State Court Administrator Bill Vickrey said court officials share the concerns of House and Murphy. In 1987, a master plan was adopted setting minimum standards for separation of victims and defendants. New facilities such as the Davis County District Court, which opened this year, accommodate security and privacy. But the cost of remodeling courthouses such as Ogden and Salt Lake is prohibitive; new buildings must be built.
"My hope is by the time the Salt Lake complex is finished in five to eight years, all court buildings will be in compliance.
"The justice commission's recommendation will add urgency to meeting our goal to be more sensitive to how intimidating the judicial process can be. It's not only important for security reasons, but it's important that victims feel confident and comfortable within a system that should be placing their needs as a priority."