CANTON, Ohio -- Visitors to the Stark County Courthouse should leave their cell phones at home, or at least in their cars.
Visitors to the Stark County Courthouse should leave their cell phones at home, or at least in their cars.
Common Pleas Judge Charles E. Brown Jr. has banned cell phones and other electronic devices from the courthouse until further notice. The restrictions are outlined in an order, filed Friday, that in part establishes boundaries for media coverage of the cases of Bobby L. Cutts Jr. and Myisha L. Ferrell.
The rule applies to attorneys, the media and the public. Courthouse staff, clerks and sheriff’s deputies are exempt.
Computers, cameras, video phones, personal digital assistants and tape recorders are among the prohibited items.
The new rules were a surprise for courthouse visitors Monday, one of the busiest days of the week. Those who had cell phones had to get rid of them.
For Terry Richards, who came to attend a criminal hearing, that meant a four-block walk back to the parking lot.
Others faced bigger inconveniences.
Attorneys often schedule hearings in different courts, in different cities, even in different counties for the same day. Cell phones keep in them touch with their offices, clients and the courts.
“I can’t make a living without a cell phone,” said attorney George Urban.
Urban said he hopes the court recognizes the rule is impractical and changes it.
“Otherwise, I’ll be moving the court to modify it,” he said.
Court Administrator Marc Warner said Brown made the order with the approval of the court’s other judges. The concern with cell phones is that they may include cameras capable of taking still pictures and videos, potentially of jurors or witnesses who ask not to be photographed.
To avoid confusion at the door over whether a device is permissible, the court is pursuing a total ban, Warner said. Sheriff’s deputies are responsible for enforcing the new rules, which are posted at their checkpoint.
The courthouse no longer has a pay phone, but a phone is available for jurors and “if an attorney needs to use a phone, that provision can be made for them,” Warner said.
The judge also has barred law enforcement officers -- except for on-duty sheriff’s deputies -- from bringing guns, knives, batons, stun-guns or chemical spray into the courthouse.
Warner said the court wants to limit the number of weapons in the courthouse. Cutts’ status as a police officer is also a factor, but Warner wouldn’t elaborate.
The restrictions are in effect even on days when no hearings are held in Cutts’ or Ferrell’s cases.
Cutts, a Canton police officer, is accused of killing his son’s mother, Jessie M. Davis, and her unborn daughter. He faces three counts of aggravated murder and other charges and could get the death penalty if convicted.
Davis’ body was found in a Summit County park on June 23 after a high-profile search that attracted national media attention.
Ferrell is Cutts’ co-defendant. She is charged with complicity to gross abuse of a corpse and obstructing justice. She faces up to six years in prison if convicted.
With a trial date set for Sept. 18, the judge felt there would be so many hearings that it didn’t make sense to enforce the rules on a day-to-day basis, Warner said.
If Cutts and Ferrell waive their rights to a speedy trial -- they were expected to do so at a hearing scheduled for this morning -- Brown will revisit the restrictions, but that doesn’t mean the judge will rescind them, Warner said.
Reach Canton Repository writer Shane Hoover at (330) 580-8338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEWLY PROHIBITED ITEMS
Personal digital assistants
Other electronic devices