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The Sanpete Messenger

Judge denies three motions from accused murderer claiming mistreatment

Judge denies three motions

from accused murderer

claiming mistreatment

 

By James Tilson

Staff writer

Oct. 19, 2017

 

MANTI—Accused murder defendant Anthony Christensen has lost three self-written motions that all dealt with allegations of mistreatment in one form or another.

In Sixth District Court on Wednesday, Oct. 11, Judge Wallace Lee denied three of four motions Christensen had written. Christensen himself withdrew the fourth motion, deciding instead to file something in federal court regarding the specific issue it dealt with.

Meanwhile, the judge did grant a motion filed by Christensen’s defense attorney, David Angerhofer, without objection from the prosecutor in the case, Sanpete County Attorney Brody Keisel.

In his own handwritten motions, Christensen complained about his treatment as an inmate in the Sanpete County Jail since his incarceration last April.

The first motion, and the one that he argued most vociferously, alleged that he was being detained in the jail, and that it amounted to “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth Amendment.

Specifically, Christensen said he was held in solitary confinement for 28 days after he was first arrested, that he is still shackled and not allowed to be with other inmates when he is given time in the exercise yard, and that he is not allowed to go to religious services with other inmates.

Keisel, however, noted that Christensen did not have any witnesses to testify to his treatment; neither did Keisel know from where his information came. Keisel admitted that Christensen’s case is different than most other inmates’ because it is so high profile. New inmates have heard of the case, and may have formed opinions about Christensen. Any isolation, therefore, would be the measures the jail would have to take to be able to protect Christensen.

A jail officer who was present in the courtroom as part of the jail’s transportation detail, was sworn in to give testimony as to the jail’s treatment of Christensen. The officer started by saying he was familiar with the defendant, and had heard what had been said earlier about his treatment. The officer told the judge that Christensen had been placed in maximum security to keep him safe from other inmates. Since he was first incarcerated, the jail had tried to loosen up its security by housing him with state inmates so that he was no longer by himself. Even so, the jail had to still be aware of potential threats to him. If he was in the exercise yard, other county inmates who had heard of the case might try to assault him. Likewise, if he was allowed to go to chapel with other inmates, he would face the same danger. Even in the exercise yard by himself, jail officials are aware that he faces danger from civilians who might try to get to the back of the jail to get at Christensen.

After hearing all the arguments, Judge Lee told Christensen that the judiciary gives a “lot of deference” to jails concerning safety issues, and that he could only grant Christensen’s motion if he found that the jail’s actions were cruel and unusual.

The judge did not so find, and also saw nothing to indicate that the county attorney’s office was somehow directing the jail’s treatment of Christensen. Therefore, the motion was denied.

Christensen’s next motion alleged that he did not have access to an adequate law library. Christensen’s motion referenced federal law, which states that all inmates that file a federal civil rights case should have access to an “adequate law library.”

Judge Lee quickly dealt with this motion by pointing out that Christensen had access to legal research and all discovery through his attorney, Angerhofer. Lee also pointed out that the law that Christensen had quoted only dealt with cases of federal inmates who had already been convicted of a crime. As Christensen was neither a federal inmate nor convicted as yet of any crime, the laws did not apply to him. Therefore, that motion was also denied.

Christensen’s other two motions were dealt with summarily. A motion alleging that Sanpete County sheriff’s deputies had intimidated potential defense witnesses could not be heard because the witnesses were not available, and also because the hearsay rule prohibited Christensen from describing what any such witnesses might saw in their testimony.

However, Judge Lee ruled that the defense could bring up the issue at trial and have witnesses testify to whether they were intimidated or not.

Christensen’s last motion, regarding compensation for property that he said had been seized in violation of the Fifth Amendment, was withdrawn because Christensen had filed a complaint in federal court alleging the same thing.

Defense counsel Angerhofer was successful in a motion he had filed on his client’s behalf, asking for the appointment of an expert witness regarding evidence from the Utah Medical Examiner’s Office.

County Attorney Keisel agreed with Angerhofer that it was appropriate that the defense have such a witness. Judge Lee granted the motion.

The court set the date for Christensen’s preliminary hearing for Dec. 12 at 9 am.