The public will retain access to the preliminary hearing of Daniel William Marsh, the 16-year-old who is accused of killing an elderly couple, a judge ruled Thursday.
Yolo County Deputy Public Defender Ron Johnson filed a motion Aug. 9 to close the preliminary hearing, arguing that the information disseminated would be detrimental to a fair trial and would “increase the sensational nature of the case.”
But Yolo Superior Court Judge Timothy Fall, who is presiding over the case involving the murders of Oliver “Chip” Northup and Claudia Maupin, rejected the attempt to restrict the media and public from the preliminary hearing on Thursday.
Marsh, who is being tried as an adult, is being held without bail at Yolo County’s juvenile detention facility. He was not present for Thursday’s proceedings.
The Davis teen pleaded not guilty June 19 to two counts of first-degree murder with enhancements for use of a knife, as well as four special circumstances alleging multiple murders, heinous and depraved murder, lying in wait and torture.
The circumstances behind the allegations of torture or heinous and depraved murders of Northup, 87, and his wife Maupin, 76, have yet to be released by authorities.
During the preliminary hearing, which is slated for Sept. 13, such information may be presented. Johnson wrote in his motion that if the public were to learn of these details, it would be unlikely to be forgotten by the time of the actual trial.
The Davis Enterprise joined with The Sacramento Bee, The Daily Democrat and The Reporter in Vacaville in filing a joint motion opposing the defense attorney’s push for a closed hearing.
“In essence, (the) defendant would render the preliminary hearing a completely secret, sealed proceeding,” wrote attorney Steven Burns in a motion filed on behalf of media outlets. He added, “Such restrictions would violate the First Amendment.”
The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office submitted a separate motion in opposition, which argued that a closed hearing also bars family and friends of the victims from attending the proceeding.
Fall chose to deny the defense motion Thursday, ruling that although the circumstances of the alleged murders may not be the type normally seen in news coverage, there was not substantial probability it would cause prejudice.
“We were very pleased with the court’s ruling,” Burns said. “Keeping hearings open allows the public to fulfill its important role of monitoring judicial proceedings.
“I commend the Bee, The Davis Enterprise, The Daily Democrat and The Reporter for fighting this battle on behalf of the public.”
Johnson did not respond to requests from The Enterprise for further comment on the denial of the defense’s motion.
— Reach Brett Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett