Voices were raised and tempers flared Friday as a prosecutor and defense attorney butted heads in the case of Bryan Oliver, the teen accused of two counts of attempted murder in a classroom shooting at Taft High School in January.
The fieriest exchange was over the rumored existence of a hit list; it came out that neither the prosecution nor defense is in possession of one.
Despite the fireworks, the pre-trial motions heard by Kern County Superior Court Judge Michael Bush went pretty much as expected.
Bush deferred Deputy Public Defender Paul Cadman’s motion for a change of venue.
Cadman argued that the case has received a lot of media attention, “all of it negative.” As a result, the court would be hard-pressed to select a jury untainted by the pre-trial coverage, he said.
Bush’s deferment means the decision about whether to move the trial outside of Kern County will likely be made by the trial judge.
Later, the tension in the courtroom increased during a subsequent motion by Cadman to set aside the most serious charges — especially after Cadman suggested the prosecution knew there was no hit list connected to the case in existence.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Pafford, who had been in the audience, came forward to respond to Cadman’s claim. His voice raised beyond usual courtroom levels, Pafford said Cadman’s comments were disingenuous and misleading.
“I take full umbrage in him trying to say that we do not know that it exists,” Pafford said of the rumored hit list. “All I told him is that we don’t have it in our possession.”
Ultimately, it was determined that neither side is in possession of a hit list, and that the school district had no evidence that such a list existed.
The only evidence that there might have been a list was a statement to investigators by a single student who said she saw one, prosecutors revealed.
Following the hearing, Cadman was adamant.
“There is no hit list,” he said.
“This is a bullying case in which my client was provoked,” he said. “This is not an attempted murder case. This case is overcharged.”
The cruelty practiced by some students is extraordinary, Cadman said.
“My client was bullied every day at school. He was called a faggot every day. Every day. The school knew it. His mom complained about it. But nothing was done.”
Authorities have said Oliver, who was 16 at the time of the shooting, entered a classroom Jan. 10 and opened fire with a shotgun, seriously injuring student Bowe Cleveland.
They’ve said he fired at but missed another student, Jacob Nichols, and shotgun pellets grazed teacher Ryan Heber. Heber and campus supervisor Kim Fields convinced Oliver to put the gun down.
Cadman said his client should be tried in juvenile court. The prosecution has argued successfully that the charges in adult court are appropriate considering the circumstances of the incident.
Prosecutors declined to comment following the hearing.
A request to photograph Oliver, despite Cadman’s objection, was granted by Bush.
A trial readiness hearing was scheduled for Jan. 10, exactly one year after the shooting.