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Palo Alto Courthouse Security In Question After Inmates Pull Off Brazen Escape

PALO ALTO (KPIX) -- After two dangerous inmates pulled off a brazen escape from the Palo Alto courthouse, questions swirl over security staffing that day. KPIX 5 has learned weren't as many guards on duty as we were first told.

"We staff with what we think is adequate what we think is safe and what provides the best service to the courts," says Sheriff Laura Smith two days after the Santa Clara County inmates escaped. The sheriff also told reporters there were thirteen deputies at the time.

But according to the courthouse schedules from that day only eleven deputies were working that morning. However, someone ordered the schedule to be altered after the escape to make it appear there were 13 deputies there. The original says only one deputy was scheduled for Courtroom 88. The altered schedule now shows three deputies.

"It was not altered it was updated," says Lieutenant James Jenson, who is charge of the county courthouses. He says schedule changes happen on a daily basis for a number of reasons.

That day it was because of a murder case.

"And at that time the court needed two additional deputies up to the Palo Alto courthouse for a preliminary hearing with 4 murder suspects."

Still, those two deputies were on their way to the courthouse at the time of the escape which means only eleven deputies were there, not thirteen, as the sheriff told the media.

"The court staff was sufficiently staffed during the incident," insists Jensen.

"There's definitely more delays than there were then there was ten years ago," says Gary Goodman, a Santa Clara County Public Defender. He is the attorney for one of the escapees.

He says there are signs of deputy staffing issues -- delays on a weekly basis to get inmates up to the courtrooms.

"And then you can hear over the radio that it appears they're scrambling to get enough security to bring the defendants up to the courthouse, so there's a cascading effect."

Jensen admits it does take longer to get inmates up to courtrooms in Palo Alto because there isn't an elevator. But he insists the courthouse is sufficiently staffed.

Sheriff Smith didn't go on camera Monday, but did say after the escape, "I believe that the court is very, very happy with the level of service that we provide."

Goodman also says the deputies do a fine job inside the courthouse but staffing issues do cause some delays.

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