FARMINGTON Concerned about the potential for witnesses to be tainted by daily replays of Edward Owens' murder trial, a judge has refused to release courtroom video until after a verdict has been rendered.
Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said he is concerned that releasing video each day of Owens' upcoming trial could prompt witnesses to "sculpt their testimony."
"All I'm trying to accomplish is to have a clean trial for both parties," Rawlings said Tuesday.
Owens, 57, is charged with first-degree felony murder in the 1980 slaying of Karin Strom. The case was unsolved until recently, when DNA evidence was used in making the case. Initially, Woods Cross police suspected Strom's husband, Stephen.
Second District Judge Jon Memmott granted a motion by Davis County prosecutors, making reference to the status the news media were given in covering the high-profile trial of Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs. In that case, St. George's 5th District Court released courtroom video to the news media covering the trial of the polygamist sect leader, who was recently convicted of first-degree felony rape as an accomplice.
"In my view, a trial is about justice for victims and defendants, and not primarily a media event," Rawlings said.
Owens' defense attorney, Michael Studebaker, stipulated to the prosecution motion.
Video access is rare in a first-degree felony trial, where a court reporter is considered the official record. The state Administrative Office of the Courts said Dateline NBC had requested tapes, but only after the trial is over. The judge did allow still photography in the courtroom, and he plans to issue a decorum order for press and public attending the trial.
The county attorney said he did not intend to restrict news media access to a public courtroom.
"My overall objective is fair for both parties," Rawlings told the Deseret Morning News on Tuesday. "I respect the media. I think you guys do a good job. My only concern is not wanting the possibility out there that would taint or influence witness testimony."Owens' trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 30.
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