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Judge In Station Great White Fire Criminal Case To Hear Arguments On Jurors

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The Associated Press has issued the following report:

The judge in the nightclub fire criminal case said he will hear arguments about whether defense lawyers can resume questionning grand jurors, after the state said it was improper.

Lawyers for nightclub owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian have said most of the jurors who indicted their clients missed at least some testimony, and at least one never received a tape or transcript of the testimony that was missed.

The lawyers want to interview the jurors about the absences — a possible step to asking that the indictments be thrown out.

On Monday, the state filed a motion asking the defendants to detail why they should be allowed to talk to the grand jurors who indicted the Derderians and Dan Biechele, the former tour manager for the band GREAT WHITE.

Each man faces 200 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the Feb. 20, 2003, fire, which killed 100 people, including eight who lived or worked in Connecticut. All have pleaded innocent.

In the papers filed Monday, the state argued there is no reason to allow the Derderians' lawyers to question jurors, and said there was nothing wrong with the grand jury proceedings.

"There is simply no requirement, statutory or otherwise, in Rhode Island that the voting grand jurors have been present for each session of the grand jury," the state said in its filing.

The state asked the judge to order the defendants not to have contact with the grand jurors, and alleged they violated court rules by contacting jurors.

to require they file any challenges to the indictment within three weeks.

Lawyers for both sides met with Superior Court Judge Francis Darigan Jr. on Monday, and the Derderians attended the session, waiting in the hall while the judges and attorneys met.

Biechele was not present, but was represented by attorney Tom Briody.

The judge plans to meet with the lawyers again on May 16 to take up the grand jury issue.

After the meeting, Darigan announced the criminal lawyers are working on an agreement about testing foam taken from the club. The fire was caused when pyrotechnics ignited the foam, which then spread the blaze quickly through the club.

Darigan said the proposed agreement says other foam is similar enough to the foam from the club to be used for testing. If they can't reach that agreement, the judge plans to hear arguments next week about releasing some foam from the club for testing.

Source: Blabbermouth

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