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East Ventura County Focus

THOUSAND OAKS : Security Discussed for Murder Trial

March 26, 1994|DWAYNE BRAY

Attorneys for a Thousand Oaks teen-ager accused in a capital-punishment case met with a judge and other lawyers behind closed doors Friday to discuss courtroom security measures in the high-profile incident.

In about half a dozen hearings since his arrest, defendant Mark Scott Thornton has never taken a seat in the courtroom.

Thornton, accused of slaying Westlake nurse Kellie O'Sullivan in September and stealing her vehicle, usually stands in the doorway of the holding cell adjacent to the courtroom.

Two public defenders representing Thornton requested Friday's meeting in the chambers of Superior Court Judge Charles R. McGrath. The judge did not issue a ruling on the matter.

The case gained widespread publicity because a 12-day search for O'Sullivan's body and outraged many people who learned of the incident, defense attorneys have acknowledged.

On Friday, the defense attorneys refused to specify why special security is needed or what measures are being sought. Prosecutors also would not disclose what was discussed in the judge's chambers. Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael K. Frawley said the defense team asked that the hearing be held outside the presence of the news media.

Deputy Public Defender Howard J. Asher said it is not unusual for defense attorneys to talk with a judge about security concerns in a death-penalty case. He would not say whether there have been threats on Thornton's life. His trial is scheduled for Aug. 1.

"The fact that there are concerns about security is not unusual in high-profile, special-circumstances cases," he argued.

Asher's co-counsel, Deputy Public Defender Susan R. Olson, said part of the security debate centers around the heightened publicity the case has attracted.

"We never go to court with (fewer) than four reporters there watching our every move, hanging on to our every word," said Olson. She said Thornton plans to file a motion for change of venue, which could result in the case being moved to another county.

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