A Stockton man suspected of killing a California Highway Patrol officer more than three years ago must make do with only one free hand during jailhouse strategy sessions with his lawyer, a judge said Monday at the close of a lengthy hearing in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
An attorney who represents Columbus Allen Jr. II asked for the hearing because he thinks his client should be able to use both hands when he sifts through legal paperwork. Jailers said they have accommodated Allen by unshackling one hand when he meets with his lawyer.
The judge sided with deputies who said maximum security inmates pose special security threats and must be shackled whenever they leave their cells.
"They're not singling out Mr. Allen," Judge Hurl Johnson said after listening to more than an hour of testimony and debate. "The nature of the charge he has against him puts him in this position."
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.
The one-hand versus two-hands dispute came up last week, when defense attorney John R. Grele alleged that jailers ignored two court orders saying Allen should have his hands free when he meets with his lawyers.
The judge said he did not recall ordering that both hands be unshackled. He read a portion of a transcript from a previous hearing in court, noting that it referred to "hand" rather than hands.
In court, Allen had one hand free and the other hand chained to his waist.
Lt. Ronald Lloyd, commander of the men's jail, said maximum security inmates have their hands and feet shackled whenever they are outside their cell. He said jailers already are making an exception by letting Allen have one hand free while he meets with Grele in a secure interview room.
He did not accuse Allen of violating any specific rules.
Grele said Allen could have both hands free, and qualify for other privileges, if he were housed with the general population. He said other inmates suspected of murder have been able to have their status downgraded, but Allen's requests have been denied repeatedly.
"Our position is that Mr. Allen has been on maximum security since day one as a result of the nature of the charges," Grele said.
Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2338.