Jodi Arias, Michael Benge, A Court Stenographer, And…Boiled Eggs?

Jodi Arias

What do Jodi Arias, Drew Peterson, and Scott Peterson all have in common? Well, besides committing murder, that is.

Each of the three convicted killers—Arias and the two Peterson’s, were all jail inmates at the start of their high-profile murder trials, which means there was a lot of activity going on behind the scenes that the public never saw. For example, jail staff had to be sure the defendants were up, fed, and ready to go in time to be at the courthouse long before the judges entered the courtroom.

Since many inmates heading out for trial normally leave the jail prior to regular mealtimes, they’re often provided a brown bag breakfast consisting of two boiled eggs, two slices of bread, and a carton of juice (varies from facility to facility).

Inmate transport vehicle

Prisoners are normally transported to the courthouses in secure transport vehicles. However, some courthouses and jails are connected via an underground hallway, which allows jail transport staff to walk the shackled prisoners to the courthouse holding cells.

Courthouse holding cells

Jail inmates wait in holding cells until their cases are called. During long recesses, such as lunchtime, the prisoners are returned to the holding cell until the trial resumes. Again, the noon meal is usually a bag lunch, such as two cheese sandwiches, an apple, and a carton of juice.

The responsibility of protecting county courtrooms, judges, jury members, court employees, witnesses, and all citizens who attend court hearings and trials, falls on the shoulders of the county sheriff.

The sheriff is also responsible for transporting jail inmates to and from their court appearances, and for guarding the prisoners while they’re inside the courthouse.

US Marshals have the responsibility of providing security and prisoner transport for federal courts.

Sheriffs deputies employed as court security officers undergo special training related to working in a court environment. Depending on an individual sheriff’s policy, court security officers may, or may not, be certified police officers.

The sergeant (you can tell he’s a sergeant by the three stripes on his sleeve and collar pin) in the above photograph is in charge of all courtroom security operations. In addition to supervising the deputies working in the various courtrooms, he’s responsible for delivering each prisoner to the correct courtroom on time.

Closed circuit cameras in each courtroom and other strategic locations, project real-time images to the security office. Judges also have panic buttons beneath their benches. A press of the button sends an emergency signal to the security office, and to police dispatchers and the nearby sheriffs office.

Deputies gather chains in preparation of transporting prisoners back to jail.

Court security officers must learn to use various screening devices, such as hand-held metal detecting wands and x-ray equipment.

Monitors for x-ray equipment.

Officer stationed at x-ray machine and walk-through metal detector.

Typical courtroom

Jury box

Jury room (deliberations)

Court reporter’s stenotype machine. Fun facts – Court reporters spell out words phonetically instead of typing each word, letter by letter. The machines they use cost anywhere from $1,000 – $5,000.

Death penalty case files stored under lock and key in county clerk’s office. For example, the third (middle) row of boxes consists of four cartons containing the entire case file for Michael Benge. Benge was convicted and sentenced to death for using a metal pipe to beat his girlfriend, Judith Gabbard, to death. After killing her, Benge weighted Gabbard’s body with concrete before tossing her in the Miami River. The car he’d driven to the river had become stuck in the mud, so Benge then swam across the river where he walked to a friend’s house.

Michael Benge was executed in 2012. His final meal request included a large chef salad, barbecue baby back ribs, two cans of salted cashews and two bottles of iced tea.

7 replies
  1. Simone
    Simone says:

    You’re definitely not writing for “no one”. I’ve just recently discovered your blog, and I love all the insight and details. Your posting archive is already on my summer reading list. 🙂

  2. Danielle Hanna
    Danielle Hanna says:

    Don’t feel like you’re writing for “no one,” Lee! Your blog is the best resource I’ve ever run across. You have the experience of a cop and the mind of a writer–and a sense of humor that gets me in trouble for laughing out loud in the library! Your blog is the highlight of my day.

    I’m with Monica–love your attention to details. So keep up the good work.

  3. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Nancy Grace had a radio show at the time of the Peterson trial/case and I was on to discuss the possibility of Scott making and using homemade concrete anchors to add weight to Lacey’s body to prevent it from floating.

    I once worked a case where a suspect duct-taped an entire bag of Quickcrete to a victim’s body as a means to prevent it from floating. Well, the concrete hardened and did its intended job…until the paper bag deteriorated and the bag-shaped concrete block slipped free. The body then floated free and drifted with the current.

  4. Monica T. Rodriguez
    Monica T. Rodriguez says:

    Great details, Lee! I know you’re keeping us writers in mind when you stop to mention *how* we’d know the man in the picture is a sergeant. Great stuff here! This website’s a terrific resource.

  5. 1015 Adam Henry
    1015 Adam Henry says:

    It was interesting that you mentioned the Scott Peterson trial. The trial happened as downtown Redwood City was going through its revitalization. The noteriety and particularly money spent by the press and court watchers provided a bit of economic boost for small businesses.

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