The U.S. Capitol is still closed to visitors, but attorneys for dozens of the defendants charged in the January 6 attack have a chance to walk through a remaining crime scene.
The restrictions for each tour are set in court files: no guests, no cameras, no special parking permits, CNN reports. But the access is huge: every lawyer receives maps of the Capitol grounds with attached floor plans.
You are promised a close look at the places that became Ground Zero on Jan. 6: the Houses of Representatives and Senate chambers, where people wearing riot gear forced lawmakers to go into hiding; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, where the recently released rioter Richard Barnett famously put his feet on a desk; and the speaker’s lobby, in front of which Air Force veteran and enthusiastic Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt was shot while entering.
The Capitol tours are the final step in a long process of criminal proceedings following the uprising. Before most of the more than 400 federal defendants can decide to do business, plead guilty or go to trial, their attorneys can go over all the details they can.
The first scheduled tour took place on Monday, and four more tours are planned for this month and next.
On Monday, the Capitol Police Inspector Thomas Loyd led the inspection of about a dozen lawyers for the rioters, according to a person present.
The tours are part of the typical process that gives defense teams access to evidence and other information that CNN says can help them prepare their cases. If either of the accused is on trial, the tours could help lawyers create key scenes for the jury.
Although legal proceedings have shown that pleading agreements are nearing, many cases are still at the stage where prosecutors are giving defense teams access to evidence.
“Usually a defense attorney has the right to retrospectively inspect the crime scene in preparation for a defense,” said former federal prosecutor Elie Honig, a CNN legal analyst.
“Of course the Capitol is a unique crime scene because it is a safe government building,” he added. “It is a better way for prosecutors to give these attorneys access, under proper supervision, to protect themselves against possible appeals that the defense has denied the right to prepare for trial.”
According to the person present, Loyd also pointed out some of the artwork and sculptures in the Capitol during the tour. The firsthand view could provide a point of reference or an opportunity for dispute to attorneys accused of damaging parts of the Capitol.
Some suspected rioters are charged with minor damage to the Capitol. However, some are charged with damage costing more than $ 1,000 from breaking windows.
More than 50 are charged with property destruction or theft during the riot, CNN confirmed.
In February, Capitol architect Brett Blanton told lawmakers that the cost of repairing damage from the attack and related security expenses exceeded $ 30 million and is expected to continue to rise.
Farar Elliott, a curator in the House of Representatives History and Preservation Bureau, told lawmakers in prepared testimony that eight pieces – six sculptures and two paintings – had been destroyed in the attack. The house’s curators requested emergency funding of $ 25,000 through February to cover the cost of restoration and repairs.
Elliott’s prepared testimony stated that the granite busts, the portraits of James Madison and John Quincy Adams, and the statue of Thomas Jefferson were covered with a fine powder classified as a “likely residue of a chemical spray” such as a fire extinguisher or fire extinguisher pepper or bear spray.
The CNN Wire
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