Janesville21.3°

Walworth County adjusts for busy week at judicial center

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Mike Heine
January 5, 2008
— The Mark D. Jensen murder trial underway in Walworth County has made for long walks for people who couldn’t find a parking spot in front of the judicial center.

But the case being held here has had a few positives, county officials say.


It prepared local officials in the event Walworth County has a major case of its own, Undersheriff Kurt Picknell said.


“It brings us through one repetition or cycle for when and if it does happen here,” he said. “That’s one of the added values to having it in Walworth County. We’re exercising our facility and our staff for an activity of this scale.”


Planning for this case, and two other lengthy trials this month, started about Thanksgiving, Public Works Director Shane Crawford said.


His department, the sheriff’s department, the clerk of courts office and the county’s information technology department worked together and with media outlets to prepare the facility.


“Were we ready for it? I think we acted appropriately,” Crawford said. “It’s definitely manageable.


“I checked with the judge (Thursday) morning. We walked off the elevator together. He was appreciative of the county staff reaction.”


Here are some of the preparations for what could be the busiest month ever at the judicial center:


-- Extra parking was made available at an auxiliary lot east of the center and across the street at the health and human services building. The court summoned 175 potential jurors for the Jensen case and 150 called for a criminal case that started Friday. About 65 potential jurors will arrive for a civil trial starting Monday.


-- All 100 or so judicial center employees parked in the Huber Dorm lot behind the sheriff’s department and were shuttled into work.


-- The sheriff’s department added deputies at the judicial center. Normal staffing may resume after jury selections are completed. An added private security screener was stationed at the front door to get people inside faster.


-- Patrol deputies have paid more attention to the area around the judicial center for traffic control in the morning and evenings, Picknell said, but no patrols have been added.


-- CBS is providing the “pool feed” for all the television stations covering the Jensen trial. A handful of wireless microphones and three remote-control cameras, manipulated with joysticks by a CBS engineer, will capture the action in the courtroom. Stations can record the footage in a temporary media room.


-- A vacant area reserved for additional courtrooms has temporarily been converted into a media room. TV stations have video and audio production equipment in the room as well as backdrops for live shots of reporters. A podium was added for official interviews.


-- The public works department added power outlets and temporary phone lines to the media room, and the county provided a wireless Internet connection for reporters using laptop computers. The county charged back about $4,800 to the 10 media outlets for materials, Crawford said.


-- County crews created a path for TV stations to snake wires from trucks outside up to the third floor. The county did not charge for labor since it is considered a permanent improvement.


-- Kenosha County will reimburse Walworth County for juror payments, bailiff salaries and deputy overtime related to the Jensen case.



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