|NMU||KANSAS||Secret Courts||Nov 18, 1999|
Judge will review motions in murder case before allowing release
- After being asked by media organizations to keep all motions public until a hearing could be held to determine whether they should be sealed, a state trial judge decided instead to review all motions to determine whether they should become part of a publicly-accessible file.
A McPherson judge presiding over a triple-murder trial ruled in mid-November that he will review all motions to determine if they should be placed in the publicly-accessible court file.
State District Court Judge Carl Anderson’s nine-page opinion came in response to a motion filed by attorney Michael Merriam on behalf of The Hutchinson News, The Salina Journal, The Wichita Eagle and the Kansas Press Association. The media organizations had told the court that they did not oppose a mid-October ruling by the judge that ordered lawyers and police to follow ethical guidelines concerning publicity about the case but that they believed that all filed motions must remain open to the public unless the judge first holds a hearing and makes findings of fact justifying sealing all or portions of the court record.
The media organizations are considering an appeal, according to Merriam.
Both the prosecution and the defense have supported restricting the media’s access to the court records, and a state assistant attorney general was quoted by the Associated Press as stating that unlimited access to court records could lead to problems for keeping the case in McPherson County because publicity might lead to an increased likelihood of prejudice to the man accused of murder.
The case involves murder charges against Chris Jones, a Lindsborg man who has been charged with the murders of his three children and the assault of his wife.
(Kansas v. Jones; Media Counsel: Michael Merriam, Topeka)
© 1999 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press