“We had a defendant who came in and he had a knife in his pocket, and it was a pocketknife but it was a rather large pocketknife,” Judge Crystal Brucker Kocher told the county commissioners Monday. “No one knew that he had it, and at some point in time, I determined that he was under the influence of some substance, so that we couldn’t proceed on with his hearing.”
But Kocher said the man apparently ditched the knife under one of the desks in the courtroom. “The problem is that is the desk that whenever an inmate is brought upstairs, they are seated at, so that they have a place to sign and review papers,” she explained. “So while the inmate was seated there, another defendant in the back of the room happened to notice the knife was there, thankfully, picked it up and handed it to his attorney, who then brought it to me.”
She pointed out that several people could have been in danger, if the inmate had gotten a hold of the knife. “He could have taken it down to the jail. He could have done something to a deputy. He could have harmed another inmate. He could have harmed someone in the public. So it’s a big concern. It’s a serious concern, and it’s not a matter of if it happens, it’s a matter of when something like that happens. And I think we were lucky this time.”
Kocher told the commissioners that she planned to ask for about $2,500 for cameras, as part of the county’s application for Court Reform Grants. But the bulk of the requested funding, about $40,000, would be used to help provide public defenders for the state-mandated pretrial release program.
The grant application is due Friday, but County Attorney Kevin Tankersley was a bit hesitant in advising the commissioners to proceed. “I don’t know what you’re agreeing to,” he said. “I mean, I don’t know what the grant covers versus what it doesn’t cover, how much you’re spending. You could be agreeing to extra employees. You could be agreeing to extra equipment, some of which the sheriff I know already has access to.”
But after Tankersley read through the grant application and Circuit Court Judge Candidate Mary Welker explained that the proposed security improvements simply involved new cameras, not new computers or employees, the commissioners eventually agreed to let Kocher proceed with the application.