Judge Fred Newton of the Coconino County Superior Court will remain as the trial judge for the Winslow hazing cases. Retired Superior Court Judge William J. Schafer, III, of the Arizona Superior Court made that ruling last Friday night. Schafer said he found "no preponderance of evidence showing that Judge Newton is biased now or was biased in the past in favor of the defense."
In the hearing held in the Navajo County Superior Court, Judge Schafer asked questions about the problems reaching the victims' families to notify them about the proposed early release of two defendants in the hazing cases. The procedures for transmitting information between the two county courts were brought up and the fact that errors were made on both ends of the fax line was brought out. In one county a date was incorrectly left on a paper. In the other county a crucial filing deadline was overlooked.
Staff members of the Navajo County Attorney's office were brought in to testify on the timeline of the many papers being sent between the courts. It was clear that there were problems on both sides.
Newton, under oath, said that he has been a judge for seven years in Coconino County and "fairly often" handles cases outside the county. He said that he commonly talked to probation officers about cases without a court report. He said that hearings can change a judge's mind about a case, and that he wanted to hear from the victims. Newton made the point that legally he could accept a request from anyone he deemed qualified.
Newton made the point that he had given the County Attorney an extension of time and changed the order for release to a furlough.