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Court Battle Over Venue For Arson Trial

MADERA – Accused arson suspects Kenneth Jackson and Alice Waterman appeared in Madera Superior Court this morning, facing charges in connection with a string of suspicious fires in the Yosemite Lakes Park area.

Waterman was being arraigned on new charges, and Jackson was in court for a pre-preliminary hearing and bail review.

Jackson’s preliminary hearing had been set for July 12, and Waterman’s for July 25. However, Jackson’s court-appointed attorney Craig Collins, and Robert Hirth, representing Waterman, both argued against a motion filed by the District Attorney’s Office to try the case in Madera rather than in Superior Court Sierra Division at Bass Lake.

“I don’t get to choose the court I want for my cases,” argued Collins. “There is no legal basis or compelling need to move the case from the Sierra Court to Madera.”

Both defense attorneys cited the trouble and inconvenience for the parties involved, including the approximately 28 victims of the alleged crimes, law enforcement and fire department officials, and witnesses, all of whom, they argued, live in the mountain area.

“All those people would be forced to drive down to Madera,” said Hirth, citing case law to support his argument. “There is no reason for this case to be heard in Madera, and the moving party has the burden of proof to show why it should not be held in Sierra.”

District Attorney Michael Keitz cites the assets and support available at the main courthouse in Madera as the reason for the motion for a change of venue.

Judge Roger Wayne set a date of July 19 in Madera Superior Court for arguments concerning the issue of moving the case to Madera, and vacated the previous hearing dates of July 12 and 25.

Also today, the evidence against Jackson and Waterman was turned over to the defense attorneys in the form of two very large boxes filled with very large binders, obviously containing thousands of pages of the evidence gathered by investigators over the past weeks. They were wheeled into court on a hand truck and caused raised eyebrows when those assigned to the defense saw the volume of material with which they would be dealing.

Allison Waterman 6-29-13Waterman’s bail had been set at $25,000 for one charge of arson, and she was released on bail on June 26. The District Attorney’s office then petitioned the court for a higher bail amount, and filed an additional charge of conspiracy to commit a crime. Waterman was re-arrested on June 29, and is now being held on a half-million dollar bond, $250,000 for each of the two counts.

Jackson is also being held on $500,000 bond. Both defendants waived their right to have their preliminary hearing held within 10 days of their arraignment, and now await the July 19 hearing on the change of venue.

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  1. Mr. Hirth claims the inconvenience of driving to Madera as a reason for no change of venue. Preposterous. Madera is 27 miles from YLP and Bass Lake is 24 miles from YLP. Parking alone at the Bass Lake Courthouse would be a nightmare. Bass Lake needs LESS traffic, not more.

  2. any genius lawyer can figure out that it takes longer to driver to bass lake courthouse than it does madera from YLP. Better think better defense man. Why am I smarter than a defense lawyer???? lame.

  3. The suspects are being held in Madera jail.

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