Alexandria judge: No cameras allowed at Craig Patterson murder case hearing


Craig Patterson, charged with murder in the slaying of Julian Dawkins. (Alexandria County Police Department)
July 30, 2013

No cameras will be allowed in the courtroom next week as prosecutors lay out some of the evidence they have against an Arlington County sheriff’s deputy charged with killing a young man after an early-morning dispute in Alexandria, a judge ruled Tuesday.

After a brief hearing in Alexandria General District Court, Judge Becky Moore rejected several media outlets’ request to videotape next Tuesday’s preliminary hearing for Craig Patterson, who is charged with murder in the May shooting death of 22-year-old Julian Dawkins, a popular driver for “PBS NewsHour.” Moore ruled that allowing cameras or other recording devices in the courtroom might taint possible jurors’ perceptions of the case before the trial and have a negative effect on the witnesses called to testify.

David A. Warrington, an attorney for The Washington Post and several TV stations, argued that allowing a camera to film the proceedings would provide viewers with an unfiltered window into the judicial system. He said it was especially important in Patterson’s case “given the nature of the facts.”

The case has received significant attention in part because Patterson was not arrested or charged immediately after the incident and because Dawkins was so well liked.

Prosecutors have said Patterson shot Dawkins in the chest after they argued and parted ways on Lynhaven Drive in Alexandria.

Patterson, who was off duty, initially claimed that Dawkins had come at him with a knife, but prosecutors said that could not have been true because the only knife detectives found at the scene was folded and clipped in the victim’s pocket.

Moore’s ruling was not a surprise, given that another judge declined to allow cameras to record a separate hearing in the case this month. But media outlets had some reason for hope. Moore had allowed reporters to record Patterson’s first court appearance, and a Fairfax County Circuit Court judge recently granted a motion by local media outlets to use video and still cameras at the trial of Julio Blanco Garcia, accused of killing local college student Vanessa Pham.

Patterson’s defense attorneys and Commonwealth’s Attorney S. Randolph Sengel objected to allowing cameras at Patterson’s preliminary hearing, arguing that they anticipate revealing only small pieces of the evidence and that broadcasting those pieces might give potential jurors an incomplete picture of the case.

“Essentially, what the media is asking to do here is not to broadcast a trial, it’s to broadcast a trailer,” Sengel said, using the term that refers to a movie preview.

Reporters will be allowed to take notes during the hearing. The case will likely move to Circuit Court if grand jurors find enough evidence to indict Patterson.

Whether cameras will be allowed at Patterson’s trial remains unclear. Warrington said lawyers might have to make another request, because another judge’s order in Circuit Court declined to allow cameras at all future proceedings in the case. Moore said her ruling was limited to banning cameras at the preliminary hearing in General District Court.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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