Schedule set in Rebecca O’Donnell case

Wednesday, March 4, 2020
Photo/ Lauren Siebert Rebecca O’Donnell being escorted from the courtroom at the Randolph County Courthouse to the Randolph County Jail Feb. 28.

Rebecca O’Donnell, the woman charged with the murder of former Arkansas State Senator Linda Collins, appeared in court before Judge John Fogleman Feb. 28. The purpose of court was for prosecution and defense to work with Fogleman to create a schedule for deadlines, leading up to the trial slated for October.

The first order of business was to discuss dates for the trial in regarding the newer charges against O’Donnell filed in Jackson County in January of this year.

Fogleman said tentatively, Nov. 19, would mark the start of the trial.

“Do you understand the Jackson County case is being continued and in effect is continued from our last time [the January hearing]...and is on your motion. A speedy trial does not apply to that per your motion,” Fogleman asked, speaking to O’Donnell.

After acknowledging she understood, Fogleman then asked defense attorney Katherine Street if there was any need to have O’Donnell evaluated for competency to stand trial.

Street said there was no need and the next issue discussed was discovery.

She said she had not yet received discovery regarding the Jackson County charges and had not received discovery which would constitute aggravated charges.

Prosecuting attorney Robert Dettrich said the state “does not have a response to discovery” at this time.

“I’m almost finished going through this mountain of evidence and will be able to respond. I’m sitting down at meetings with all the officers involved, but I will have a response for the aggravated motion for middle of April to first of May and I’ve not gotten a motion for discovery on the new case,” Detrrich said.

Fogleman then ordered all discovery not yet shared to be submitted to Street within two months time. The same deadline was placed on Street to meet the demands of Dettrich’s request for discovery as well.

Fogleman asked about the video and audio evidence and if it had been provided, however; Street said without knowing what the prosecution had as evidence, it was hard to know what needed to be requested.

Dettrich said he would make the files available for the defense to review in the coming months.

Fogleman asked if any motions to suppress statements or searches were anticipated and Street said if there were items found after the deadline, the court would be notified.

Fogleman set the deadline for motions to suppress as May 31.

In regards to the January hearing, when attorneys representing the Arkansas Press Association and ABC News made a motion to intervene, Fogleman said he would stay true to his word.

“I spent all afternoon reviewing the matters under seal and in a little while, I’m going to meet with attorneys in chamber. I have lists of things that are going to remain sealed and others I’m not sure why they’re under seal, but there might be something in there I’m not picking up on,” Fogleman said. “I will give you the list and the next time we have a hearing, I want you to be prepared to discuss. I’d like the state and defense to meet before that hearing to see if you can agree on any of those matters. I know that’s extra work but when I allowed the intervention, I committed that I would do this and I have done it.”

As discussion continued between the attorneys and Fogleman, it was established the prosecution would present the defense with a list of videos and audio recordings they intended to use at trial.

On multiple occasions, the large volume of video and audio recordings was mentioned by both the prosecution and defense.

Redaction of the video and audio recordings was also discussed.

“When we were viewing these initially, there was some discussion about that. We need to go back and figure out what our position is and meet with the state possibly in August,” Street said. “...with regard to redaction, there are, I do not know how many short videos from surveillance cameras in this case, and if the state would be willing to identify which ones they intend to use rather than us going through everything. I would not object if they said they were going to use 10 and later added more. There are a lot of videos.”

Fogleman said a decision as to which videos would be used should be completed by July 31.

“I don’t have any problem trying to narrow that down. When I meet with law enforcement officers we could get a good handle on what’s going on. There is a great deal of video in this case. I will do my best to narrow it down. She’s right, there’s no reason to deal with all that if I’m not going to use it,” Dettrich said.

Street said the same request applied to the large volume of phone calls from the jail as well.

“We also have a huge number of jail calls to narrow down. If we’re going to work on redacting things, if we could narrow it down. These are two separate things. I know the state will be doing it as they go along. The August date is fine with us but the volume is pretty large,” Street said.

Fogleman then moved on to establish a deadline for exhibits to be marked, setting it for Sept. 18.

Jury selection processes were the next to be discussed, ultimately both the prosecution and defense agreed holding a series of isolated voir dire’s would be more effective than one large group so potential juror’s responses would not impact other jurors.

Fogleman said he intended to set another date for follow up, but did not see the need to hold court every month.

Another hearing will be held May 21 to provide updates regarding the agreements mentioned during court.

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