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As if it weren't hard enough the first time for Jocelan Martell to hear how her son was fatally beaten, she now has to relive it again -- all because of a technical glitch.

On March 14, Martell had fought back tears as a witness described the brutal scene in Breckenridge last Halloween, when three young men punched, kicked and hit 36-year-old Cody Wieland over the head with an Army helmet after a bar fight ("Boys Gone Wild," April 17, 2003). Martell made a silent promise to Wieland, whose injuries left him unconscious until he died on November 10, that she would be present for his suspected killers' every court appearance. And so she had braced herself for the graphic testimony delivered throughout the preliminary hearing of Brian Stockdale and Brandon Robbins, who face charges of second-degree murder and first-degree assault. (A third man, Michael Scott Dietert, is presently working out a plea deal with the Summit County District Attorney's Office).

After that six-hour hearing, Martell was hopeful that the trial would take place this summer and that she might finally have some peace. Instead, a court tape recorder failed to pick up most of the testimony, so the hearing has to be repeated. "It's absolutely heart-wrenching," Martell says. "Someone with Parents of Murdered Children said it best when she told me, 'What's dangerous is that you're putting the grieving on hold.' That's true. I'm dealing with the court and not with the loss of my son."

Courtrooms in Summit County have always relied on tape recorders rather than court reporters, but this time a backup was used because the normal recorder was malfunctioning and had been sent out for repair, says Christine Yuhas, administrator for the 5th Judicial District, which covers Summit, Eagle, Clear Creek and Lake counties. Unlike the newer model normally used, the backup allows for the input of only four -- rather than eight -- microphones. So the judge and witnesses shared one while the other three were placed at the podium and the attorney's tables. When witnesses leaned back in their seats or lowered their voices, the microphone was not able to pick up the sound clearly. It was hours into the hearing before anyone noticed and corrected the problem, Yuhas says. Even after the tapes were sent out for enhancement, the first few hours were inaudible.

Although Martell emphasizes how impressed she's been with the courtesy of the court staff, she's dumbfounded by the hassle and waste the mistake has caused. "Taxpayers paid for six hours of a day that didn't happen," she says.

To make matters worse, another day was wasted early this month. Martell had been notified that the preliminary hearing would be redone on June 2, but when she arrived about 8:30 a.m. that Monday, only Robbins, Stockdale and one of the witnesses were there. As it got closer to 9 and no one from the DA's office showed, Martell inquired with a clerk -- only to learn that no such hearing was on the docket; the DA had requested a continuance the previous Friday. Although Yuhas says everyone was notified of the change, word of a postponement never made its way to Martell -- or the defendants.

Now she gets to make her third preliminary-hearing trip to Breckenridge on July 31.

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Julie Jargon
Contact: Julie Jargon