Just the most important part.
Starkey has documented several occasions when the public was refused entry into court proceedings, including his own. He said the policy dates to at least 2002.
A sign on District Judge Dwayne Steidley’s courtroom confirms that the public isn’t welcome.
"ONLY DEFENDANTS are allowed in the court room,” the sign states. "Family and friends must stay in the hallway.”
"You’ve gotta ask: ‘Why does he not want people in there?’” said Starkey, who in April 2007 created the Web site www.rogerscountygrandjury.com. He wants an investigation of the local court system.
The closed-door practice isn’t confined to Steidley’s courtroom. Next door, during a criminal docket Wednesday, a sheriff’s deputy said Special Judge Erin Oquin would have to approve any party other than attorneys before entering.
The Rogers County policy left one open government advocate aghast.
"That is unbelievable,” said Joey Senat, past president of Freedom of Information Oklahoma and an associate professor of journalism at Oklahoma State University.
Steidley, a former state legislator, didn’t return phone messages seeking comment.
District Judge Dynda Post, the county’s presiding judge, said she was troubled to learn of the policy and said she didn’t condone it.
She said she ordered Steidley’s sign removed and added, "It won’t go back up.