Judge: Couple in kidnapping can talk to each other

February 27, 2010 6:26:08 AM PST
The Northern California couple charged with kidnapping Jaycee Dugard and holding her captive for 18 years must be given the opportunity to speak to each other while in jail, a judge said Friday. Phillip and Nancy Garrido have been held separately since their arrests in August and denied access to each other. Their lawyers argued they had a constitutional right to visit to talk about the case, their finances and their hopes for Dugard and the two daughters Dugard had with Phillip Garrido.

Prosecutors and jail officials strongly opposed the request. Jail officials had said arranging such visits would overburden the staff, while the county district attorney scoffed at the suggestion that the Garridos had any role to play in promoting Dugard's well-being.

But El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Douglas C. Phimister on Friday scolded the county sheriff's department, which runs the jail, for being unwilling to facilitate communication between the two inmates. Phimister argued that jail officials routinely find ways to arrange calls and visits to inmates that are monitored "when it is to our advantage."

"These are two people who are potentially facing the rest of their lives in prison," he said. "To allow them 10 minutes to talk to each other is not unreasonable."

Phimister ordered jail officials to allow Nancy Garrido, if she chooses, to place two five minute phone calls to her husband over the next several weeks. He said Phillip Garrido would not be allowed to contact his wife for now because of claims made by prosecutors and Nancy Garrido's lawyer that she was controlled by him during their 29-year marriage.

The judge scheduled another court hearing for April 15 to discuss whether the couple, who have pleaded not guilty, would be allowed face-to-face visits in the future.

Outside of court, Nancy Garrido's court-appointed lawyer, Stephen Tapson, told reporters he had no doubt his client would try to call her husband as soon as it could be arranged. She broke into tears as the judge outlined his plan for the two phone calls, Tapson said.

"She loves him," Tapson shrugged, adding that he still thinks Nancy Garrido was manipulated by her husband during the years Dugard was held captive.

At Friday's hearing, the judge also appointed two lawyers to represent Dugard's two daughters, who were fathered by Phillip Garrido.

Phimister said the girls need their own lawyers because the defense is seeking access to the interviews they gave authorities after the Garridos' arrests and because they would likely be called as witnesses if there is a trial.

Meanwhile, Dugard and her family have taken the first step to sue the state of California for lapses officials made while she and her daughters were allegedly held captive by the Garridos.

Dugard, her two daughters and her mother, Terry Probyn, each filed claim forms in late January against the Department of Corrections, said Jon Myers, a spokeswoman for the state's Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board.

Dugard's spokeswoman, Nancy Seltzer, said the family members haven't decided whether they'll file a lawsuit.

"We are simply preserving Jaycee Dugard's right to file a lawsuit at a later date, if that is something she decides is in her family's best interest," Seltzer said.

By law, victims have six months from the time of the incident to file a personal injury claim against the state.

The forms do not ask for a specific dollar amount, only saying damages exceed $25,000.

The damage or injury specified on the form was for "psychological and emotional injury" and the circumstances that lead to the damage or injury were described as "lapses by the Corrections Department."

A messages left with the Santa Monica, Calif.-based attorney listed on the claims, Dale Kinsella, was not immediately returned.

Prosecutors say Dugard was kidnapped from outside her South Lake Tahoe home in 1991 by the Garridos, then taken to Antioch, Calif., where she lived with two daughters fathered by Phillip Garrido in a ramshackle backyard compound.

Phillip Garrido had been under parole supervision because of a 1977 conviction for raping a 25-year-old woman. He was released from prison in 1988 and placed under federal supervision until 1999, when California took over.

According to an investigation by the Office of Inspector General, mistakes in how California monitored Garrido began right away. Among them, he was wrongly classified as a low-risk offender, which meant looser controls on him, and one agent did not try to confirm the identity of a young girl he saw at the house while on a visit, instead trusting Garrido's claim that she was his niece.

The secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Matthew Cate, has acknowledged serious errors in the handling of the case.


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