Laura Hall, Outside state District judge Flowers’ courtroom, lots of television cameras (including the 48 Hours Mystery crew) were set up to get their shots of Laura Hall walking into the courtroom. Hall smiled and said “hi everybody” but admitted she was nervous. When asked how she felt walking into the courtroom, she said, “Last time I hyperventilated, but I know I’m in good hands… as soon as Sawyer (her attorney) gets here.” Her aunt told her that Sawyer was in the courtroom, and Hall said, “oh good.” It was a regular docket this morning in state District Judge Flowers’ courtroom, not a hearing just for the Laura Hall matter, so there were lots of lawyers and their clients milling around waiting for their cases to be called. Sharon Cave Sedwick (Jennifer Cave’s mother) and Jim Sedwick sat with some friends across the aisle at the front right.
Hall sat at the front left of the public gallery with her aunt, father, and grandmother and appeared upbeat and sometimes animated, chatting with her family and occasionally some reporters.
After sitting through more than an hour of docket call, Judge Flowers called a morning break. I stood up and was talking to Statesman reporter Steven Kreytak, when Hall walked up to us, already familiar with Kreytak. Hall and I had never spoken to each other before. She asked us what we thought of the football game last night. Kreytak and Hall are Colts fans, and I am a Saints fan. The three of us talked about the Superbowl for a few minutes.
Another reporter joined us and asked Hall her goal. She said, “trying to clear my record.” When asked what she hoped the outcome of her sentencing retrial would be, she said she was hoping for probation. Hall said, “There is a football game and I’m the football, and I’d rather be the quarterback–or the coach.”
Hall said she was less scared of all the reporters this time around, adding, “You guys are just people like me.” She also said, “I wanted to go to Sarah Lawrence (College) so bad!” She told us she’s living with her parents and that although she has a UT government degree, she’s not looking for a job right now because all her focus is on her retrial. She added that she was “not going to law school in this state.”
After two hours, Hall’s case was finally called. Hall and attorney Joe James Sawyer and assistant district attorneys Stephanie McFarland and Allison Wetzel took their respective places. McFarland began, saying that Hall’s current appeal bond has expired. Sawyer told Judge Flowers that Hall poses “no reasonable risk of flight”, that she’s made all her court appearances.
Flowers replied, “Let’s just guarantee a speedy trial,” denying Sawyer’s request to extend or renew the bond, and ordering Hall into custody. The sheriff’s deputy kind of had to bearhug Hall to cuff her, and as she was being dragged out she cried out to Judge Flowers, “I’m not guilty! Let me go home! You need to let me go home!”
A few minutes later in the courtroom, Hall’s screams were still audible from the holding cell right outside the courtroom. From her reaction, it appeared that Hall had no idea she could be locked up today. I didn’t know that was a possibility either.
Judge Flowers told Sawyer that this case would be a priority and then set a March 4 docket call, with a tentative March 8 sentencing retrial start date. McFarland said the state had some discovery she thought Sawyer would want to look at. Both sides seemed a little iffy about being ready for trial March 8.
Outside the courtroom, Hall’s father, Loren Hall, talked to reporters. He said his daughter has been working at the family’s resort, got her driver’s license back, and has been studying for the LSAT. He said, “I know my daughter’s innocent.”
Sharon and Jim Sedwick spoke briefly to reporters–they’ll be witnesses in the retrial so are limited in what they can say–but said they were very pleased with Judge Flowers. Sharon added that it had been a tense morning for everyone.