Douglas County judge limits next hearing to YouTube broadcast in teen murder case after court security describes the last hearing as a scene of ‘chaos’

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Law enforcement deals with the crowd outside the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center in downtown Lawrence after a disturbance during a hearing in the murder case of Derrick Del Reed, who is accused of killing Kamarjay Demont Shaw.

A Douglas County judge on Friday limited an upcoming hearing in a teenager’s murder case to a YouTube broadcast for spectators after the head of court security described the last hearing as a scene of “chaos” with multiple threats of violence.

The “chaos” surrounded the self-defense immunity hearing at the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center on June 2 for Derrick Del Reed, 17, of Lawrence, who is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Kamarjay Shaw, 14, of Lawrence, on March 18, 2023, in the 1300 block of Maple Lane. Reed has maintained that the shooting was in self-defense.

photo by: Images courtesy of the Lawrence Police Department

Images police released of Derrick Del Reed and the Chrysler 300 he was driving while police searched for him after the shooting of Kamarjay Shaw, 14, on March 18, 2023.

At a hearing on Friday, Judge Sally Pokorny limited attendance of Monday’s hearing to Reed’s parents, since Reed is currently a minor, and media, after the court heard testimony from the head of court security, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Chris Johnston. He said that despite the presence of dozens of officers from combined law enforcement agencies, including the sheriff’s office, Lawrence Police Department and Eudora Police Department, they were unable to control the people who attended the last hearing and the courthouse was put into lockdown for a short time, as the Journal-World reported.

“For lack of a better word, chaos,” Johnston said when asked to describe the hearing.

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Sheriff’s deputies stand at the ready behind a steel security door that was closed after multiple outbursts during a self defense hearing for 17-year-old Derrick Del Reed. on June 2, 2023, in Douglas County District Court. The door was closed after attendees were asked to leave the courtroom and to watch the hearing on Youtube.

Johnston said there was no body camera footage from inside the courtroom that day but that more than 6 hours of footage from the court’s hallways and courtyard had been given over to the court as evidence.

The footage shows physical altercations between attendees and law enforcement and between supporters of Reed and Shaw, Johnston said. Inside the courtroom and out, law enforcement officers heard threats being made from both Reed’s and Shaw’s supporters of physical violence and of people threatening to retrieve guns from their cars, Johnston said. He said that the chaos resulted in one formal arrest and three detentions, and that in each case police were “mobbed” as they tried to put someone into custody.

“Officers standing in the aisle prevented a knockdown drag-out fight in your courtroom,” Johnston said to Pokorny.

Since Shaw’s death in March, Johnston said he is aware of at least 23 incidents of violence that have occurred that stemmed from that shooting. He said there have been multiple fights, disturbances with weapons and one shooting directly connected to Reed’s and Shaw’s social circles. Johnston said he would not go into further detail as it could jeopardize pending prosecution against those involved.

Reed’s attorney, Mark Hartman, argued that the hearing should not be closed and that if the court does decide to limit attendance at the hearing, it should do so on a case-by-case basis targeting problematic attendees.

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Defense attorney Mark Hartman, center, talks to Assistant District Attorney Ricardo Leal, left, and Chief Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Tatum, right, during an immunity hearing for 17-year-old Derrick Del Reed on June 2, 2023. Reed is charged with murdering 14-year-old Kamarjay Shaw on March 18, 2023.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Tatum argued that the hearing could be restricted if the court could find that safety concerns warranted it.

Pokorny said that it was not feasible from a time standpoint to try to individually screen everyone who came into the courtroom or to vet everyone who wanted to attend the hearing. She said that a YouTube setting was actually more open than the traditional courtroom and that Friday’s hearing was viewed by at least 90 people while the courtroom itself could only hold 65 spectators.

Pokorny said that Johnston’s narrative and her own experience from June 2 were sufficient to say that there were safety concerns for the court, and even surrounding residential neighborhoods, since one of the threats made that day included someone saying they would return to the courthouse and burn the building down.

“I had never seen so much law enforcement presence in a courtroom. I may have never seen a law enforcement presence like that in my life,” Pokorny said.

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Judge Sally Pokorny, on June 2, 2023, in Douglas County District Court during a self defense hearing for Derrick Del Reed, 17, who is charged in Douglas County District Court with murdering 14-year-old Kamarjay Shaw. Pokorny closed the hearing after multiple outbursts from the gallery.

Pokorny noted that Johnston described the chaos as having lasted from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. but she said the problems started before that and that court security had to escort Shaw’s family out of the District Attorney’s Office prior to the start of the hearing.

LaTouche Shaw, Kamarjay’s father, was the most vocal during the self-defense hearing and “no amount of persuasion” could prevent him from disrupting the proceedings, Pokorny said.

As the Journal-World reported, LaTouche Shaw alleged during the June 2 hearing that the court and prosecution were engaging in racial bias by targeting Kamarjay’s supporters and removing them from the courtroom while giving Reed’s supporters a pass. Reed is white, and Kamarjay was Black.

Pokorny concluded that no one could provide her with a plan to hold the hearing peacefully, and without a plan it was best for Monday’s hearing to be restricted to a YouTube broadcast.

The hearing is set for Monday at 9 a.m. on the court’s YouTube channel. In it, the court will hear additional testimony about Reed’s self-defense motion, the state will argue that Reed should be tried as an adult, and additional motions regarding evidence will be addressed.


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