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Texas judge seals case records after they turn up on TV news

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  1. Court Access
A Texas judge on Tuesday sealed the mental health records of a murder suspect, even though a local television station had…

A Texas judge on Tuesday sealed the mental health records of a murder suspect, even though a local television station had obtained and aired portions of those same records the day before, reports the Austin American-Statesman.

According to the newspaper, an American-Statesman reporter tried to obtain copies of the documents, which were included in suspect Paul Devoe’s case file, but that evening the judge sealed them. Devoe is accused of killing six people in a two-state shooting spree.

Austin’s Fox 7 News had broadcast details from the reports on Monday night, according to the American-Statesman. Attorney Joel White, speaking with the paper, said the judge’s move to close off access to the documents was pointless, since their contents were already public.

"It’s not within the spirit of the law," White told the newspaper.  "Once the information is made public, the court can’t pretend to take it back with a sealing order."

White, who is a board member of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, said typically  in a criminal case, mental health records aren’t public until either the trial begins or they are used in a hearing.