Serial killer wants to block news media from competency hearing

Monday, February 4, 2013

PHOENIX — An Arizona serial killer on death row wants the media barred from a hearing on whether he is mentally competent to waive further appeals so he can be executed as soon as possible, his lawyer said Jan. 31.

Court-appointed attorney Julie Hall made the disclosure during a hearing without explaining why Dale Shawn Hausner wants reporters and cameras kept from the April proceedings in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Judge Roland Steinle will hear from Hausner and mental health experts at the hearing.

The judge intends to hold a separate hearing for media organizations to object.

Hausner was convicted of six murders and numerous other crimes in a series of random shootings in the Phoenix area in 2005 and 2006. Victims included pedestrians, bicyclists and animals.

During an automatic appeal for Hausner in July, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld the death sentence and all but out one of his 80 convictions.

Hausner then asked the justices to set his execution date. He said he wanted to forego further appeals —which could take years to resolve — and to represent himself in any court proceedings. The state high court ordered the Superior Court to determine Hausner’s competency to waive appeals.

Hausner didn’t acknowledge guilt during his trial but told the jury before sentencing that he should be sentenced to death “to help the victims heal.”

He was allowed to not present evidence for leniency in sentencing after Steinle ruled he was competent to make that decision.

Hausner, Hall and a state prosecutor participated by phone in Friday’s hearing. Hall did not immediately respond to messages later in the day.

A Phoenix crime author who wrote a book about Hausner’s case said Hausner “loves the media” because of the attention it provides him. But he successfully fought to keep secret the psychological evaluation report prepared for the previous competency ruling, author Camille Kimball said.

“He did not want his childhood explored and any psychological records revealed at that time,” Kimball said. “He does not want people to know what his childhood was like.”

A lawyer for a group that advocates for open government said there were no compelling reasons to bar the media from the upcoming hearing.

“There’s no jury to influence, or anyone, for that matter,” said attorney Daniel Barr of the First Amendment Coalition. “The public’s interest in Dale Hausner’s fate is extremely high.”

The attorney general’s office said it will have no position on Hausner’s request until his lawyer files a written motion.

The office’s general position is that all such proceedings should be open to the public, but there could be extraordinary circumstance allowing a court to privately consider information, spokeswoman Amy Rezzonico said.

Also during Friday’s hearing, Hall reiterated Hausner’s desire to keep his in-person court appearances at a minimum. Hausner has expressed concern about his safety in Maricopa County jails, where he was previously assaulted.

In a letter submitted to the court, he also expressed concern about a court-appointed expert’s ability to provide the judge with an honest and professional report.

Hausner said the expert needs to put aside her expressed opposition to the death penalty. Hausner also said the expert told him that his body language indicated that he’s depressed, which Hausner disputed.

Steinle told Hausner that he was confident that questioning of the expert in court would detect any bias and that Hausner himself would be heard.

“I will have a colloquy with you,” Steinle told Hausner.

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