Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered on Witness Stand.
By John Taft, Investigative reporter 10-31-01 Ed/Op
Grants Pass, Oregon -- Courtroom spectators watched in amazement as Dave Daniel gave inaccurate information when he testified in court on October 25th, 2001. Daniel was a friendly witness for a defendant named Dusty Fields. Fields was accused by Pam Hackett of forcibly removing a sign from her during a public hearing on a proposed sheriff and district attorney tax levy held on May 26, 2000, in the Anne Basker Auditorium next to the county courthouse. Daniel gave testimony that the incident took place during a hearing involving a sheriff’s department contract with the US Marshals to house federal prisoners in the county jail. Paul Frasier the state’s prosecuting attorney from Coos County, when cross-examining Daniel asked if the hearing wasn’t about a tax levy. An embarrassed silence ensued. Daniel finally responded that it could have been. At this time Daniel’s credibility with the 6-member jury should have been zilch. His further testimony on what took place during the hearing could have been just as flawed. The jury seems to have put too much faith in a sheriff with a bad memory.
Sheriff and Commissioner Possessed by Spirit in Courtroom?
Commissioner Iverson, well groomed in a gray suit, walked to the witness chair with the short gait of a tired old man. Iverson, a commissioner, and chairman of last years ill-fated levy hearing also gave inaccurate information during the trial. After Hackett had brought in her two signs and Iverson had called a recess, he asked Daniel to call the cops. Interestingly, Daniel is a cop; he’s the sheriff. Basker Hall is county property. The sheriff’s department has jurisdiction and arrests people in the courthouse when necessary. Daniel is a hired gun for the county, and he calls the shots. Instead of taking control himself, he called the city cops. He had the authority to immediately handle the situation. Instead the sheriff stood up in the front of the hall looking bewitched, bothered, and bewildered, while hiking his trousers and equipment belt. There is a videotape to support this allegation. This situation could possibly have been averted, to the satisfaction of all, by a competent sheriff. Former JoCo District Attorney Tim Thompson publicly wrote that Daniel lacked the skills to be sheriff. Many county residents agreed then and are sure of it now.
When Iverson described the situation he said, "City police came in and we removed the signs." One can ask Iverson what the "we" bit is about. Perhaps, the daydreams of a Walter Mitty? A videotape made of the hearing shows that after a break called for by Iverson one of Hacketts signs was still there when the meeting resumed and remained there for the rest of the meeting. Grants Pass City Police didn’t take out any signs. Iverson’s memory of the incident was inaccurate, as were other comments he made regarding the hearing. Both Daniel and Iverson claimed a major disruption of the meeting with yelling, catcalls, etc. The videotape shows this to be basically a figment of their imaginations.
Prosecuting Attorney Imitates Headless Horseman
The state’s attorney Paul Frasier representing Pam Hackett put on a lackluster performance missing important opportunities to object to defense attorney Rebecca Peterson’s line of questioning of the various witnesses. At one point Peterson appeared to be harassing a witness. Frasier made no objection. Judge Coon called a halt to the proceedings, had the bailiff escort the six-member jury from the courtroom, and then asked Peterson where she was going with her line of questioning. The judge was not satisfied with her answer and indicated he would not allow her to continue with that line of questioning. Frasier should have made an objection rather than forcing Judge Coon to stop proceedings.
Trick or Treat
The six member jury comprised of one young man and five women had to be unanimous in its verdict to find Fields guilty of the charges against her. The jury didn’t find Fields guilty, so there was no conviction. Fields walked and Hackett’s charges pursued by the state and at state expense, were ultimately a waste of taxpayers’ time and money.
Was the Head of Justice Served on a Platter?
1. Judge Coon did an exemplary job of presiding over the trial. Other Josephine County judges: J. Lloyd O’Neal, Gerald Neufeld, L.L. Sawyer, (out of town judge) and William J. Mackay should take note.
2. Defense Attorney Rebecca Peterson attempted to tie all of Hackett’s witnesses together as antigovernment, noisy and expressive. This is what a defense attorney would be expected to do.
3. Prosecutor Paul Frasier as mentioned, built a credible case but was as silent as a pumpkin when he should have objected to the specters raised by Peterson. He lacked personal conviction and was unable to reach the jury.
4. Sheriff Daniel, a friendly witness to Fields, lied or had forgotten important facts regarding the case.
5. Commissioner Frank Iverson, a friendly witness to Fields also lied, or had forgotten the facts of the case.
6. Other witnesses were relatively unimportant to the jury’s final decision.
7. The video showing Fields physically removing the sign from Hackett was ignored by one or all of the jury members. Frasier is reported to have refused to poll the jury.
8. Fields admitted taking the sign from Hackett. This would appear to be the same as saying I did it. I broke the law. And Fields commented that she took the sign because she wanted to restore order to the meeting.
9. The connection of the jurors to public officials and the jurors’ true sentiments are now an open box for daring spirits to rummage through.
Is Josephine County Forever to be Cursed by Weird Juries?
Putting this information together one could arrive at a conclusion that the jury ignored the judge’s instructions, everything the prosecuting attorney said, the video tape, testimony of friendly witnesses for the state, and Fields’ own admission to taking signs.
This leaves only the testimony of the defense witnesses and attorney which was considered factual by the jury. A county sheriff and commissioner gave the jury inaccurate information and this is fact. Yet, the verdict shows their testimony appears to have swayed the jury to vote not guilty.
Is the Jury Pool in JoCo Possessed by Malevolent Spirits?
Jurors in Josephine County appear to have no real insight into what really goes on behind the scenes in the criminal justice system and the commissioners’ office. Are juries ignorant? Do they believe if you wear a badge or a title you can do no wrong, and the official is a fountain from which only the whole truth and nothing but the truth pours? Or do they fail to disclose their real feelings, during jury questioning.
A young male juror dismissed from the jury for prejudice was able to vent his further displeasure toward the state’s witnesses before the courtroom door closed behind him by making an obscene gesture towards the courtroom spectators. Contempt of court? It’s reported he may have a relative working for a police department.
This jury verdict is another symptom in a long line of what’s wrong with the criminal justice system in Josephine County.