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Why did Dawn Walker pick a judge over a jury? Legal analyst weighs in

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Dawn Walker’s choice to have her trial heard by a judge is a “tactical decision,” according to a legal analyst.

Walker is accused of abducting her child and faking their deaths. The mother and son were reported missing in July. After extensive searches, spanning two weeks, Walker and the seven-year-old were found safe in Oregon.

Walker is charged with public mischief, parental abduction and identity fraud.

On Tuesday, Walker waived her right to a jury trial and elected to have her case heard by a judge alone.

Deciding between a judge or jury is one of the toughest decisions an accused can make, according to Ari Goldkind, a criminal defence lawyer and legal analyst.

In this case, Goldkind says a jury — likely made up of some parents — may not side with Walker’s decisions.

“Making people search in ponds and fields because you’ve let them think that you and your child are dead …. leaving animals at home, unfed, to basically suffer until they were discovered, the amount of money that was in the bank account— when you have all the things a jury will hear this woman allegedly did, that may be something a jury may really dislike,” Goldkind says.

An agent with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Walker stole the identity of a close friend to open a bank account as part of an “abduction scheme.”

Walker and her son’s father were involved in a custody dispute, according to the agent.

U.S. court documents say Walker’s pets were found in her home without food and feces on the floor. The documents say Walker made a checklist before fleeing to Oregon — which included dying her hair and covering her tattoo.

“In a defence lawyer’s point of view, [the jury] may not be able to sort of reset themselves and give this lady the open slate, the presumption of innocence that she's entitled to,” Goldkind tells CTV News.

Walker’s trial dates are set to be scheduled on Thursday. 

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