Esperanza fire trial; closed hearing

There were some strange things going on in the Esperanza fire trial today. From KESQ:

Closing arguments have concluded in the murder trial of a California man accused of setting a wildfire that killed five firefighters, but the judge has held an unusual closed hearing.

After Thursday’s arguments, Riverside County Superior Court Judge W. Charles Morgan dismissed the public but kept the jury and attorneys behind closed doors.

Earlier in the day he also ordered the public out and called jurors in one by one.

It’s unclear what prompted the judge’s actions, but defense attorney Mark McDonald said afterward that the jury composition remains the same and the panel will return Friday for final instructions and the start of deliberations.

McDonald could not say anything more because of a gag order.

Thirty-8-year-old Raymond Oyler has pleaded not guilty to five counts of first-degree murder and other crimes. Five Forest Service firefighters were killed by the so-called Esperanza Fire in October 2006.

More details about the closing arguments are at the Desert Sun.

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