A recent legal move could mean Jaycee Dugard will not have to testify in open court next month against the couple charged with kidnapping her, raping and holding her captive for 18 years, a defense lawyer said Wednesday.
Stephen Tapson, who represents Nancy Garrido, said he was told by several legal sources "in a position to know" that El Dorado County prosecutors convened a grand jury Friday that indicted his client and her husband, Phillip Garrido, either late Tuesday or Wednesday morning. He said he has not received the indictment yet because the transcripts have not been completed.
Grand jury charges would supersede the 29 counts of kidnapping, rape and false imprisonment the district attorney brought against the Garridos soon after their August 2009 arrests, he said. Both Phillip and Nancy Garrido have pleaded not guilty to those charges.
More important, an indictment would eliminate the need for a preliminary hearing where a judge would decide if there was enough evidence for a trial, according to Tapson. That hearing is scheduled for Oct. 7. If that hearing is not necessary, it would eliminate the need for Dugard and her two daughters to testify against the Garridos.
"If (prosecutors) don't have to put on a preliminary hearing, the live bodies are not subject to cross-examination," he said. "It's timesaving for them, but obviously defense lawyers can't stand it."
The district attorney's office was not accepting telephone messages after the close of business Wednesday. District Attorney Vern Pierson did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment.
The Garridos have been jailed since their arrests for allegedly kidnapping Dugard when she was 11 and holding her at their Antioch home, where prosecutors said she gave birth to her daughters and lived with them in a ramshackle backyard compound.
Dugard resurfaced last summer after Phillip Garrido, a convicted rapist, brought her and the girls with him to a meeting with his parole officer, who did not know he had a young woman and two girls living at his home.
Tapson's comments were first reported by The Sacramento Bee.