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State trial judge considers sealing records in murder case

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  1. Court Access

    NMU         KANSAS         Secret Courts         Nov 4, 1999    

State trial judge considers sealing records in murder case

  • Judge will decide whether to hear arguments in court about sealing records in the case of a man charged with the murders of his three children.

A McPherson judge is considering whether he can keep motions filed in court secret prior to holding a hearing about whether to seal the records in a high-profile murder case, according to the Associated Press. Anderson has not sealed any records in the case and has allowed cameras and recorders into the courtroom, according to AP.

State District Court Judge Carl Anderson announced in early November that he was delaying resolution of the issue until he had an opportunity to review how other courts had handled similar situations, according to the AP and Michael Merriam, who represents media organizations seeking to keep the court records open to the public.

Both the prosecution and the defense support restricting the media’s access to the court records, and a state assistant attorney general stated 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 defendant, according to AP.

Anderson’s reexamination of the access to records issue comes on the heels of a motion filed by Merriam on behalf of The Hutchinson News, The Salina Journal, The Wichita Eagle and the Kansas Press Association. The media organizations 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 they believe 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.

Chris Jones, who is from Lindsborg, has been charged with the murders of his three children.

(Kansas v. Jones; Media Counsel: Michael Merriam, Topeka)

© 1999 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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