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Continued: Washington County courthouse is a hotbed of potential violence

  • Article by: KEVIN GILES , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 17, 2013 - 4:34 PM

An “amnesty box” at the door allows visitors to surrender items such as brass knuckles, ammunition, martial arts throwing stars, corkscrews, knives, lighters, utensils — even handcuff keys. Padlocks are banned because they could be used to lock courtroom doors or swung in clothing as weapons. Drug paraphernalia can lead to arrests.

Commander Jerry Cusick and his court staff evaluate security daily, doing everything from sweeping courtrooms for weapons to reviewing court appearances and assigning deputies accordingly. They’ve seen it all, including intoxicated defendants and people under the influence of drugs, Cusick said.

The Sheriff’s Office often must be mindful of impressions of a show of force in court, which means striking a balance between security and individual rights.

“The last thing we want is a mistrial because we had too many officers and intimidated the jury,” Harris said.

But court business isn’t all worrisome — happy occasions include weddings and adoptions, when people leave smiling.

Meanwhile, Johnson took some ribbing from fellow attorneys for his heroics in the courthouse.

“I only had to take about two steps so I didn’t get too winded,” he said.

In instances like that, Hutton said, it’s interesting “to see who rises” to the challenge.

Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037

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