When a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper stands trial in July for the drowning death of a handcuffed Iowa man, cameras will be in the courtroom.
Despite opposition from the attorney for Trooper Anthony Piercy, Judge Roger Martin Prokes ruled that a still camera and video camera would be allowed in the proceedings. The 26th Circuit, which includes Morgan County, typically does not allow cameras.
Prokes’ order granting the request of media organizations, including The Kansas City Star, was released Wednesday. The hearing occurred last week.
There will be “no more than two cameras allowed in the courtroom,” Prokes’ order read.
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Special prosecutor William Camm Seay charged Piercy in December 2015 with involuntary manslaughter for the May 31, 2014, drowning. Since he was charged, Piercy has been on unpaid administrative leave from the Highway Patrol.
Prokes, of the 4th Judicial Circuit in northwest Missouri, is the third judge in the case. He received it last year after the previous judge, Stan Moore of Lebanon, recused himself on Nov. 7.
Moore got the case after Seay requested a change of judge in March 2016 because the judge assigned then, Kenneth Hayden, is from Versailles, the same small town where Piercy was on the school board.
Piercy arrested Ellingson on suspicion of boating while intoxicated on the Lake of the Ozarks, and they headed to a field office for a sobriety test, traveling at speeds up to 46 mph on the lake. Ellingson ended up in the water, and the life vest — which witnesses say Piercy didn’t properly secure on Ellingson — soon came off. The trooper eventually jumped in to try to save Ellingson but couldn’t.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin July 10 with the trial expected to last one week.
The charge against Piercy is a Class C felony carrying a punishment of up to seven years in prison, up to a year in the county jail, a $5,000 fine or some combination.
For more stories on The Star’s investigation into Ellingson’s death, click here.