Judge in Jaycee Lee Dugard's kidnapping and rape case will consider unsealing grand jury transcripts
An El Dorado County Superior Court judge appointed an additional psychological expert on Thursday to examine kidnapping suspect Phillip Garrido in advance of a March proceeding on whether he is competent to stand trial for the the abduction and rape of Jaycee Lee Dugard.
The expert specializes in “malingering,” said Judge Douglas C. Phimister, who did not elaborate on what the doctor’s role in the competency trial will be and why such expertise is necessary. Garrido is already undergoing psychological evaluation in the case.
Phimister also agreed to examine about 25 court documents at the heart of the widely followed case, which have been held under seal. Several media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee, are pushing to have the documents released to the public.
Garrido has been charged with kidnapping and rape in Dugard’s 1991 disappearance. Dugard was 11 at the time of the abduction. When she resurfaced in 2009 after being held captive for 18 years, she had borne two daughters. According to court documents, Garrido is their father.
Garrido and his wife, Nancy, are being held in El Dorado County Jail pending trial. Since their arrest, Dugard testified before a secret grand jury about what happened during her captivity. The transcript of that hearing remains under seal.
“I have examined hundreds of transcripts that vividly describe murder, rape, pillage, but nowhere in my experience have I seen a transcript that describes evil, as it is contained in the grand jury transcript in People v Garrido,” wrote Stephen A. Tapson, Nancy Garrido’s attorney, in opposing the unsealing.
In court Thursday, Tapson described the media as “sniffing, snarling, whining…hounds” and argued that unsealing the transcript “screws up Phillip and Nancy Garrido’s right to a fair trial.”
But media attorney Karl Olson said that there are ample means for the court to ensure that an impartial jury is seated to weigh in on Garrido’s competence and both defendants’ guilt or innocence. Jurors can be questioned carefully before being selected and then admonished to ignore publicity about the case.
“Yes, there has been publicity,” Olson said Thursday. “All of the cases which gave rise to the right of public access had great media interest. The question is simply whether you can find 12 jurors who can give the defendants a fair trial. The answer is, ‘Yes.’ ”
Phimister said he will examine the documents and rule on unsealing them at a later date.
--Maria L. La Ganga in Placerville
Photo: Garrido in court. L.A. Times file