The attorneys representing Tashina A. Jordan, the Bend woman charged with killing her disabled son, successfully argued their client has the right to wear street clothes to court because her navy blue jail attire could send a negative message to a jury.
Jordan’s lawyers felt it was an important point to make ahead of a possible death penalty trial for aggravated murder, scheduled to take place next summer.
Jordan, 29, is accused of putting a bullet in the head of her 7-year-old son, Mason, before trying unsuccessfully to take her own life by overdosing on pills.
Jordan was in court Wednesday for a procedural hearing, as were a number of relatives and supportive parents of children with developmental disabilities.
Deschutes County Circuit Judge Randy Miller ruled on several motions in the case. Before the hearing, he signed the order allowing Jordan to wear “appropriate civilian clothes” to her hearings rather than jail garb. She won’t be required to wear arm or leg restraints.
Jordan’s attorneys said the clothing request was important considering how much attention the case was likely to receive from the media.
“The appearance of a defendant in jail attire and shackling suggests to potential jurors that the defendant is guilty and is a general threat to safety,” defense attorney Thaddeus Betz wrote in a court document.
That suggestion of guilt “is widely recognized as so prejudicial,” Betz wrote, that courts have ruled that defendants have “a constitutional right” to civilian court attire.
On Wednesday, Jordan wore a white sweater, black slacks and brown clogs.
Seated between two of her attorneys, she appeared to wipe tears from her eyes with a tissue as they discussed a scheduling matter with the judge.
Another topic of discussion was the full release of Mason’s voluminous medical records by the defense to the prosecution. Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said it could be another six weeks before his office gets all the requested files. It’s not because the defense is being obstructionist, he said. “There’s just a lot of them.”
Hummel said when his office gets Mason’s complete medical file, he’ll make a decision whether to pursue a death sentence against the boy’s mother.
Aggravated first-degree murder is the only crime in Oregon eligible for the death penalty. The aggravating factor in this case is that the victim is younger than 14.
“We know what happened. I think both sides agree what happened,” Hummel said. “The question is why.”
About 6 p.m. Aug. 20, Jordan was found unconscious in her home on Mount Hope Drive by a relative, identified by neighbors as her mother, who also lived in the home. Nearby was the body of Mason, who’d been shot one time.
Jordan was determined to have swallowed an overdose of pills, according to Hummel, although he wouldn’t specify which kind.
Mason was pronounced dead at the scene. Jordan was rushed to St. Charles Bend in life-threatening condition.
Mason was born healthy. Several weeks later he suffered medical emergencies that left him with severe disabilities. According to an online biography, he had cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus.
At first, Jordan wasn’t expected to survive her suicide attempt. Over the next few days, with sheriff’s deputies standing guard nearby, she regained consciousness and her condition improved until she was cleared to be transferred to the Deschutes County jail. She was arraigned several days later, a week after the event.
On Wednesday, she remained in custody following her hearing. Her next court date is in March.
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, firstname.lastname@example.org