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Water woes at courthouse postpone Oklahoma County jury trials

Exterior of the Oklahoma County Courthouse.  [Photo by Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]
Exterior of the Oklahoma County Courthouse. [Photo by Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]

Jury trials at the Oklahoma County courthouse have been called off this week because of elevator issues.

"If you've received a jury summons, contact the number on your jury summons for further directions but do not show up Monday," Presiding Judge Ray C. Elliott said.

The controls for the three public elevators at the courthouse and the inmate-only elevator were damaged when a pipe burst Wednesday in the extremely cold weather.

"A fire suppression pipe burst on the crosswalk," the judge said. "The water ran down the ramp into the elevator shafts and flooded the circuit boards."

Preliminary hearings in criminal cases will go on as scheduled on the fifth floor. Hearings on victim protective order requests have been moved to the third floor. Both floors are accessible to the public via crosswalks from the adjacent county office building where the elevators work.

Also, arraignments of jail inmates will be held as normal by video, the judge said. Participants in other hearings scheduled this week should call ahead.

The courthouse was closed Monday for Presidents Day, Tuesday and Wednesday because of the heavy snow, and Thursday and Friday because of the elevator problems. Officials were scrambling to get parts from an elevator company in Iowa.

County Commissioner Brian Maughan said Saturday, "Chances are we're going to get this fixed on Monday or Tuesday at the latest if it is what we think it is. ... It's not going to be cheap."

Among the trials being pushed back is a death penalty case.

Ramon Rocha Pugh, 46, is accused in the 2017 shooting deaths of three men in Midwest City. Prosecutors alleged he is a continuing threat to society when they sought the death penalty. He also is known as "Sico," "Psycho" and "Romon," prosecutors said.

The delays of jury trials could affect overcrowding at the jail, which experienced new problems last week because of the weather.

"Water pressure issues have been experienced by the facility along with all downtown Oklahoma City residents," a jail spokesman said Wednesday. "This has affected the functioning of showers, toilets and drinking fountains."

Starting at noon Wednesday, inmates were given bottled water with their meals, the spokesman said. "Barrels have been located on each floor along with buckets to begin manually flushing toilets."

Elliott said he will do his part to address reducing the jail population since he won't be presiding over a trial.

"I will be here available to take pleas," he said.

"We're going to try to get as many go-home pleas out of the jail as we can."

Nolan Clay

Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,... Read more ›