Judge expands gag order in Hickory Street murders case
BY BOB OKON email@example.com March 15, 2013 2:02PM
Adam M. Landerman (clockwise, from top left), Alisa R. Massaro, Joshua F. Miner and Bethany L. McKee | Supplied photos
Updated: April 18, 2013 6:43AM
A Will County judge on Friday expanded a gag order in the Hickory Street murders case, trying to put a clamp on police outside of Joliet and other authorities who might release information about the crime.
The order was expanded in response to a story in The Herald-News on Friday about the arrest of Bethany McKee, one of the four defendants in the Joliet murder case.
Lawyers were in court for a hearing on a motion from Sun-Times Media, which owns The Herald-News, to unseal court files that were put under wraps after police reports from the crime were reported by the media.
“History has shown that when trials are conducted secretly, or when court proceedings are conducted secretly, bad things happen,” attorney Seth Stern, representing the Sun-Times, said in an attempt to unseal the court files.
But McKee’s attorney pointed to the story in The Herald-News along with video on the newspaper web site of McKee talking to police in Kankakee, where she was arrested, as reasons to tighten control on information available to the public.
“We think there are some very significant due process issues at stake,” attorney Charles Bretz said.
Judge Gerald Kinney said there were conflicting interests at stake and, “In practice, when you see a defendant’s statement posted on the Internet, it’s potentially very problematic to the participants in this trial.”
Kinney agreed to expand his previous gag order to add provisions written by defense and prosecuting attorneys, who said they would apply to Kankakee-area police and other agencies, including Shorewood police, that might have a connection to the case. Even the order would be kept sealed, so its full extent was not known,
“I’m not completely comfortable with my authority to do it, but I’m going to extend the order,” Kinney told lawyers at the hearing.
The Herald-News story on Friday quoted Kankakee police. The video of McKee was obtained from Kankakee police through a request made under the Freedom of Information Act.
Kinney had previously barred prosecutors and defense attorneys from talking about the case.
Stern questioned the court’s authority to expand his gag order farther and contended that there had never been a formal hearing to argue the merits of sealing the court files.
Kinney suggested that he may reconsider his earlier decision to seal the files.
“I needed to ensure that the attorneys out-of-court statements were controlled,” Kinney said of that decision. At the same time, Kinney said, he sealed the court files. But, he added, “I am not convinced that when we’re done with this that the entire file should be sealed.”
No ruling was made on the motion from Sun-Times Media to unseal the court files. A hearing on the matter was set for April 10.
Others charged in the case are Joshua Miner, Adam Landerman and Alisa Massaro. They all were arrested at 1121 N. Hickory St., where the bodies of Eric Glover and Terrance Rankins were found on Jan. 10.