Fulton County Court officials have announced how they will deal with the anticipated strong public interest in the upcoming trial of Alyssa Shepherd, which is set to begin Tuesday in Rochester.
On Thursday afternoon, Superior Court Judge Gregory Heller issued a four-page outline on a variety of policies for the trial and I’m guessing a few reporters (and the public) will be feeling left out.
The statement addresses security, media credentials, seating and even parking.
Reporters interested in attending were instructed to submit requests by 4 p.m. Friday. But on Friday morning, a court security official emailed InkFreeNews to say that credentials were being issued on a first-come, first-served basis and that there were only two left.
As you can imagine, that caused a bit of dash on our part. I drove quickly (yet safely) to Rochester and got the fifth pass. I’m not sure who got the sixth. Others who secured access include the local Rochester newspaper, two TV stations from South Bend and our friendly competitors down the street.
As we reported a few weeks ago, the tiny courtroom can only accommodate about 30 or so people after setting aside room for the court staff, jury, defense and prosecutors. The court is reserving ten seats for Shepherd’s family and 15 for the victim’s family. That leaves very few seats remaining for the general public.
All of this appears to be an unprecedented way of handling the circumstances in Fulton County.
Shepherd is facing five charges after the pickup she was driving struck four children, killing three, as they crossed SR 25 to board a school bus in the pre-dawn morning of Oct. 30 of last year. The tragedy gained national attention and has led to changes in state law on bus stop safety. Charges include three counts of reckless homicide, one count of criminal recklessness and one count of passing a school bus with the stop arm extended.
* * *
DOWNTOWN BEAUTIFICATION — While it’s never been officially cast as a large-scale improvement project, downtown Warsaw is experiencing significant changes. Obviously, the most noticeable is the current replacement of traffic signals at Center and Buffalo at a cost of about $358,000. At the same time, the city has begun replacing oversized trees and will continue doing so over the next few years. Some of the bricks that are part of the streetscape are being replaced as well.
On top of that, the city is planning to replace some 30 garbage cans along downtown sidewalks at an estimated cost of about $30,000. While that might raise eyebrows, the cost is not much more than what was spent during the last garbage can update about 16 years ago.
* * *
DEBATE LIKE A CHAMPION — It was announced Friday that the University of Notre Dame will host the first of three presidential debates on Sept. 29 of 2020. The others will be at the University of Michigan and Belmont University in Nashville.
While South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is still a longshot to win the Democratic Party’s nomination, I’m sure he and his staff were tickled that the event will be held in the mayor’s backyard.
While Buttigieg’s poll numbers have slipped in recent months, he’s still doing well in other ways. His most recent quarterly fundraising report ranked third. Bernie Sanders led all with $25.3; Elizabeth Warren, $24.6; Buttigieg, $19.1; Joe Biden, $15.2 and Kamala Harris reported $11.6.
Also working in Buttigieg’s favor is his ground game in Iowa. The New York Times reports he has more offices than anybody in the field in Iowa with 22 (Warren has 19, Biden 17 and Sanders 9).
A lot can happen in three months, but the youngest guy in the top tier of candidates — whose toughest competitors are all in their 70s — has positioned himself as well as could be expected, considering he was a no-name in national politics just a year ago.
Dan Spalding is the editor of InkFreeNews.com.
He covers city government and politics and always welcomes your input.
He can be reached at [email protected] or at (574) 855-7612.