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Victims' Rights or Cocoa Puffs

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Victims Rights or Coca PuffsWho ever thought we would see the day when our court system would be deciding a case on whether an inmate accused of murder gets to eat Cocoa Puffs in jail. Maybe its time the court focus on the crime victim as opposed to the sugary breakfast cereal.

To say that our criminal justice system is quickly turning into a criminal welfare system is an understatement.  Instead of focusing on caring for the well being and rights of those whom have had crimes committed against them, the system seems to care more about making sure that those accused of a crime are coddled and sympathized with.  From letting people out of jail without a financially secured bail bond on their own recognizance without any accountability to go commit more crimes and create more crime victims to using our tax dollars to fund these criminal FREE BAIL BOND programs, the system is quickly spinning out of control and heading down a path where public safety and justice come after the needs of those committing the crimes. 

Now don't get me wrong when I say this, I think that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and that everyone deserves to be treated in a humane fashion and in accordance with our state and federal laws.  But when tax dollars and court time are literally being spent over a bowl of Cocoa Puffs, that is when it is time to call foul and take a look at where our criminal justice system is heading.  Do murder suspects being held in jail without bail really deserve to complain about not getting their favorite sugary breakfast cereals?  I am under the impression that jail is not supposed to be like a Four Seasons Hotel, where each inmate gets a room service menu and spa time each afternoon.  See for yourself in this recent article in the Weekly Herald in Washington State.  

Written by Eric Granof

Original story below.

Murder Suspect Wants Cocoa Puffs in Jail
By Diane Hefley, The Daily Herald

The wheels of justice have been slowed by Cocoa Puffs.

Lawyers on Monday spent more than two hours arguing over whether a woman charged with aggravated murder should have access to coffee, tea, Cocoa Puffs and candy bars while she's locked up in the Snohomish County Jail.

More than two hours. That's not a typo. And they're still not done arguing over snacks. Another hearing is scheduled for March, when a judge is expected to decide if jail staff must allow the woman access to the jail's commissary.

There's no doubt that aggravated murder cases are complicated, highly-litigated and often require numerous pre-trial hearings. Those hearings usually focus on protecting the defendant's rights to a fair trial – not their choice of snacks.

But attorneys for both Holly Grigsby and David “Joey” Pedersen have filed motions complaining about jail conditions, mainly that their clients are cut off from the jail store and can't supplement the three meals a day they're provided.

The pair are accused of killing David “Red" Pedersen and his wife, DeeDee , of Everett last fall. Investigators also believe they killed two other people -- an Oregon teenager and a disabled California man – before their capture in northern California.

The Oregon couple have ties to white supremacist groups. Grigsby allegedly has made statements that the Oregon teen, Cody Myers was killed because he had a “Jewish sounding” last name. Meyers was a Christian. Grigsby also has allegedly made statements that Reginald Clark was shot to death in California because she believed he had a drug problem. Clark was black.

Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe is expected to decide by April 20 if he'll seek the death penalty for pair.

At a hearing Monday, Pedersen and Grigsby, both in shackles, flirted with each other. He winked. She smiled. Jail officials testified that the pair were immediately classified as maximum security inmates because of the nature of the charges against them and the possibility that prosecutors may seek the death penalty. Jail staff also considered their flight from justice spanning three states, the potential for similar charges out of Oregon and California and the media attention that the case attracted.

They both gave interviews to reporters while sitting in a California jail awaiting extradition to Washington. At least one Oregon newspaper reporter tried to set up interviews with the pair at the jail here.

The maximum security classification meant that Pedersen was denied access to the jail's store. The jail also changed their policy in December for high-security risk female inmates, cutting them off from making purchases from the commissary and bringing the policy more in line with the male population.

Jail staff say allowing inmates, like Pedersen and Grigsby, access to snacks is a security issue. Yes, crooks can abuse access to a Snickers, using it to barter with other inmates for favors. Sugary snacks also can be used for making jailhouse hooch – a crude form of alcohol.

Grigsby has received several violations since she's been incarcerated, including trying to brew alcohol in her cell and trying to communicate with Pedersen through a reverse mail scam.

She's now jonesing for Cocoa Puffs and coffee.

Defense attorney Pete Mazzone, in a lengthy soliloquy, argued that it's against his client's constitutional rights to deny her access to the commissary based on the nature of the charge against her. He complained that she has no way to change her security classification. He tried to debunk the notion that a bowl of cereal and an Almond Joy are security risks.

Grigsby had something taken away from her and she has no say in the matter, Mazzone said.

DeeDee Pedersen's daughter and friends were in the courtroom on Monday.

Superior Court Judge Linda Krese is expected to hear testimony on behalf of Pedersen in March. He's back from Western State Hospital but there's no word on whether he's been deemed competent to stand trial. His lawyers want him to testify about the jail conditions. Krese won't take testimony from him until she knows that he's competent.

The judge said she'll make a decision in March. In the meantime, she said it would be helpful to know what items inmates can purchase.

That'll make hearing No. 3.