Long story short. The attorneys in Vanessa Guerena v. Pima County have to be very careful when they talk to the media for the forseeable future.
In May 2011, Jose Guerena was shot and killed by members of the Pima County Sheriff's Department's SWAT team and his wife, Vanessa, filed a lawsuit against the county several months later.
A short time after that, prosecutors unsealed a grand jury indictment alleging Guerena, his two brothers and some extended family members were part of a drug trafficking organization.
Well, on Monday, I stumbled into an interesting hearing in the civil case. (It was listed as an "unspecified hearing/event" on the court docket and I thought I'd stop by.)
It seems that back in December Judge Carmine Cornelio told the civil attorneys on both sides to confer with each other to come up with a gag order that would make both sides happy.
The thinking was that a gag order would prevent the future jury pool from becoming contaminated by the things they heard through the media.
Vanessa's attorneys indicated in court documents they didn't want anyone to link Vanessa and Jose to the drug trafficking organization.
They expressed dismay in court documents that Sheriff Dupnik has called Jose an "enforcer" for the organization. They are also upset the sheriff once said Jose may have thought he was going to be arrested for murder the day he was killed.
In addition, they wrote they didn't want the other side to call the drug trafficking organization the "Guerena drug trafficking organization" in public.
The attorneys representing the county indicated in court documents they were OK with not linking Jose and Vanessa to the organization in public, however they wanted to retain the right to discuss the "Guerena drug trafficking organization."
They pointed out Jose Guerena's brother, Alejandro, is alleged to be the head of the organization and they continue to need the media's help in locating Gerardo Guerena, who remains a fugitive.
The attorneys also shared the fact there's no existing gag order in the criminal case.
It came out during Monday's hearing that the attorneys have not been able to come up with something everyone could agree upon.
Judge Cornelio told the attorneys he understands both sides and said that from this point on he expects the attorneys and their clients to follow existing Arizona Supreme Court rules on such things.
If someone "makes a problem" for him, Judge Cornelio said he could contact the State Bar of Arizona or impose sanctions, depending upon who the offending party is.
The judge also noted that if extra hearings are needed to discuss any incidents he could require the offending party to pick up those costs.
Some of those involved in the criminal case are tentatively scheduled to enter guilty pleas March 14. (They were supposed to plead guilty yesterday, but there's a new judge and prosecutor on the case.)
The civil trial is scheduled for Oct. 8.