Sunday, July 24, 2011

Judge closes evidentiary hearing in Todd murder case; newspaper seeking child-welfare records

Todd Circuit Judge Tyler Gill has sealed the case record and barred journalists from a continuing hearing in the murder case of a 9-year-old girl, "fearing the disclosure of evidence that jurors won’t be allowed to hear at trial," Nick Tabor reports from Elkton for the Kentucky New Era in Hopkinsville.

Tabor reports that state police say Amy Dye's 17-year-old cousin and adoptive brother, Garrett Dye, who is being tried as an adult, confessed to killing her, but his attorney says the confession was coerced and has asked the judge to suppress it. The hearing lasted all day Friday and is to continue Monday. Gill told the five reporters who wanted to cover the hearing, “I can’t do anything to intentionally sabotage the defendant’s right to a fair trial.”

Gill also sealed the court record until after the trial, which is scheduled for November. The defense "requested a mental evaluation to determine whether Dye was eligible to plead insanity and competent to stand trial," Tabor reported. "The evaluation results are confidential, and so far attorneys have not scheduled a hearing for Gill to rule on Dye’s competency." (Read more)

The case has raised other open-government issues. The weekly Todd County Standard asked the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services for its file on the case and won an appeal at the attorney general's office when the cabinet said it had no such records and refused the request of the office for a confidential review of records.

The cabinet appealed Franklin Circuit Court's award of costs and attorneys' fees but not the substance of the ruling, which cited an earlier opinion of the court that the cabinet must release records of a case where child abuse or neglect resulted in a fatality or near fatality. "The cabinet had substantiated allegations of abuse or neglect involving Amy and had imposed certain conditions upon the family," the Standard said in its lawsuit to force the cabinet to release the records.

The Standard asked Todd County Dispatch for access to logs and recordings of calls it received on the night the killing was reported, but the agency denied the request, saying disclosure could compromise the investigation. The attorney general's office upheld the denial, saying in an opinion written by Assistant Attorney General Ryan Halloran that the agency had demonstrated that "disclosure of the information would harm it by revealing the identity of informants not otherwise known or by premature release of information to be used in a prospective law enforcement action."

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