A preliminary hearing for a man accused of killing six people has been reset while competency records are obtained, and the judge is considering whether to release the 911 call audio and body camera footage.
District Judge Bret Smith heard a request from Gretchen Mosley, Jarron Deajon Pridgeon's attorney, to move the hearing so her office can review competency records from Arkansas regarding her client.
Pridgeon, 25, of Muskogee, is accused of killing Javarian Lee, 24, identified by police as Pridgeon's brother, Que'dynce Anderson, 9, Nevaeh Pridgeon, 6, Harmony Anderson, 5, Jaidus Pridgeon, 3, and Jalaiya Pridgeon, 2, on Feb. 2.
"I am aware after speaking with my client's family that he has a long history of mental illness and mental health treatment," Mosley told Smith. "At this point, I am not in a position to make a determination with respect to competency and a propriety of competency evaluation that I that I need to get those records in order to make that determination. That is going to take some time because they're in another jurisdiction."
"Our process for obtaining records from Arkansas in previous cases has been somewhat convoluted. Hopefully we can obtain all the records that we need for purposes of determining whether an application is appropriate."
Pridgeon also is charged with shooting Brittany Anderson — the 27-year-old mother of the five children who died as a result of the shooting — with the intent to kill her. Prosecutors filed an eighth charge against Pridgeon for his alleged possession of a firearm after pleading guilty in 2019 to a violent crime: assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
Pridgeon's preliminary hearing has been moved to June 4.
Muskogee County District Orvil Loge agreed without objection to the defense's request.
Loge's office also introduced a motion on Feb. 8 to restrict the release of the police body cam footage and the 9-1-1 tape to the media, a motion the defense was in agreement with. The Muskogee Phoenix introduced a motion to respond to the state's to prevent the release.
"This is audio and visual evidence that ultimately that has to address the state's right to a fair trial, the victims' rights under the law and the defendant's rights to a fair trial," Loge said to the court. "And I think those rights outweigh the rights of the press or the public to obtain these items in this case. I'll represent to the court, I've never filed a motion of any case I've had in the six years I've been the district attorney, but I think in this case it calls for that."
Loge also said that the release of the tape and footage could taint the jury pool.
"If it's released, potential jurors could see and hear it and start making opinions about this case," he said. "We've now heard of mental issues that could come up in this case. I think the court should grant the state's motion to protect our rights in this courtroom to ultimately have a fair hearing."
Kathryn Gardner, representing the Phoenix, argued that the state's motion was in violation of the Oklahoma Open Records Act.
"The 9-1-1 call — we argued that the provision of the Open Records Act that the state cited to withhold that from release, we argued that that doesn't apply to 9-1-1 calls, it only applies to body camera," Gardner said. "On that portion, the judge said in court today that he does agree it's a separate matter from body camera. He wanted a chance to review the 9-1-1 call himself before he was going to make a final decision whether or not to release that 9-1-1 call."
As to the body camera footage, Gardner said Smith said he was considering the portion of the Open Records Act that concerns body cameras.
"Specifically, he was concerned; as a judge, he has to not only consider the interests of the public but the interests of the defendant, the state and the victims," she said.
Smith ruled he would take the motion under advisement.
"I thought it was a very thoughtful consideration of the law involved in the matter," Gardner said. "I am hopeful that when the judge takes the matter under advisement, he will agree with our position that this information should be released."