UPDATE: Defense counsel for the adoptive parents of Orson and Orrin West accused District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer of misleading the public and preying on people’s emotions during her press conference last week.
“Statements that have been used by the Kern County District Attorney in her press conference tend to invoke a tidal wave of emotion toward finding guilt, whether substantiated or not, and this will taint a local jury pool and could deny our clients a chance at a fair trial,” said Timothy Hennessy, attorney for Trezell West. “It’s odd that the office held their press conference, made a series of comments which both mis-and-disinformed the public then the following day came and requested a gag order to stop the defense from having an ability to make similar comments.
“This action is disingenuous but may also cause a change of venue in the future. This is an election year and this case is serving as a compass to guide the DA to her path of reelection. However, now is the time when the misleading and theater end and the constitutional protections begin.”
The phrasing used by Zimmer — saying the grand jury was “convinced” and it “believed” — is not a legal standard used at trial, Hennessy said. He said the standard of proof at grand jury proceedings is much lower than the standard of being found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt required at trial.
Hennessy also pointed out defense counsel and the accused are not present during grand jury proceedings and have no opportunity to cross-examine witnesses or present evidence.
Zimmer’s comments, Hennessy said, make it seem like the case is a “done deal,” but the Wests are innocent until proven guilty.
Reached afterward, Zimmer said the DA’s press conference was held to address questions by the media given the high level of public interest. She said her office will have no further comment until a verdict has been reached.
Trial is scheduled for May.
Hennessy and Alekxia Torres Stallings, representing Jacqueline West, said they are joining in the prosecution’s motion for a gag order to prevent the spread of misinformation. A hearing on the gag order is set for Tuesday.
Defense counsel said the trial could be moved to another county if it’s determined a significant portion of the jury pool has heard of the case and already made up its mind. A motion for change of venue isn’t granted often, Torres Stallings said, but this case has received a copious amount of media attention.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The lawyers representing the adoptive parents charged with murder in the deaths of Orrin and Orson West are holding a news conference this afternoon.
The conference will be held 12:30 p.m. at 1318 K St., the Law Office of Torres Torres Stallings. Alekxia Torres Stallings represents Jacqueline West and Timothy Hennessy is defense counsel for Trezell West.
Prosecutors have said the boys, Orrin, 4, and Orson, 3, were killed three months before they were were reported missing. Their bodies have not been found.
Trezell West, 35, told authorities the boys were playing outside while he gathered firewood Dec. 21, 2020. He said he briefly went inside and when he came back out the boys had vanished.
Information received a week later led to the involvement of the Bakersfield Police Department, which eventually took over the investigation from California City police. Dozens of searches were conducted, as well as digging at sites in Bakersfield and California City.
The couple was indicted March 1.