A judge Tuesday said he will hold a special hearing to determine if the Stockton man suspected of killing a California Highway Patrol officer can have both hands free during jailhouse meetings with his lawyer.
The issue came to a head because an attorney who represents Columbus Allen Jr. II thinks his client should be able to use both hands when he sifts through legal paperwork, while jailers contend that maximum security inmates like Allen can assist in their own defense even if one hand is shackled.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Hurl Johnson signed orders Dec. 9 and Feb. 27, at the request of the defense, mandating hands-free encounters. Custodial deputies have continued to keep one of Allen's hands shackled to his waist when he meets with defense attorney John R. Grele of San Francisco.
The judge agreed that Allen and the county have a right to litigate the dispute, but he didn't seem too concerned about the jail's partial compliance with his order.
"I don't tell the jail how to run the jail and they don't tell me how to run the court," Johnson said. "That's pretty much how it works."
Allen, 33, is suspected of killing CHP officer Earl Scott about 4:40 a.m. Feb. 17, 2006. The slain officer was found on the edge of northbound Highway 99, just south of Hammett Road near Salida, clutching registration papers for a Nissan Maxima registered to Allen's wife, Bertera.
Allen and his wife showed up at the Stockton Police Department hours later, reporting that their car had been stolen. Investigators found gunshot residue on Allen's clothing and contend that calls from Allen's cell phone place him in the vicinity of the shooting, according to court records.
The one-hand versus two-hands disagreement came up during a routine scheduling hearing.
Deputy County Counsel Dean Wright and a sheriff's lieutenant were on hand to explain their position. They did not have a chance to present their case because Grele said he needs time to review documentation about Allen's conduct while in custody, so he can mount a proper cross-examination.
Johnson said he will hear from both sides Monday.
The judge also set dates for defense motions that have been talked about for many months, saying he will consider a request to move Allen's trial to another county June 4 and 5, and hear a request to suppress evidence June 18 and 19.
The judge said Allen's trial should begin Sept. 1, as planned.
"As far as I'm concerned, that's a firm date, unless one of you is in the hospital," Johnson said.
Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2338.