Attorney of slaying suspect, 14, asks closed hearing on adult trial

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Tuesday, September 14, 1982
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Attorney of slaying suspect, 14, asks closed hearing on adult trial

By Neal St. Anthony
Southern Minnesota Correspondent

Austin, Minn.

The attorney representing a 14-year-old suspect in the shooting death of a teacher in Lyle, Minn., asked a judge Monday to exclude the press from an approaching hearing to determine whether the youth should be tried as an adult.

Judge Paul Kimball Jr. said he would rule on the motion quickly, following arguments from the attorney and a lawyer representing the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, who asked him to open the hearing.

"It's not necessary for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune to come down to Mower County to observe a reference hearing," said Bruce Hanley, a Minneapolis lawyer representing the youth. "Just because this is a celebrated case it doesn't give them the right to be in the courtroom."

Hanley said that coverage of the adult-reference hearing would prejudice the case and identify the youth, and that the newspaper should not be allowed to cover the hearing just because of the severity of the crime.

"I think that in this case ... the juvenile's right to privacy overrides the First Amendment right of freedom of the press," Hanley said.

But Sara Jay, the newspaper's lawyer, said, "The nature of the crime, in its seriousness, is one of the reasons why we believe the press has a right to be here."

"There is a growing perception that juveniles are getting away with too much. The best way to restore public confidence is to let people know why the juvenile is referred (to face charges as an adult), or not."

Minnesota law closes juvenile-court proceedings to the press, except when the presiding judge determines that publicity is in the public interest.

If a juvenile is referred to adult court, the court file is opened to the public. It is the newspaper's policy not to print the names of juveniles unless they are certified as adults.

Police arrested the youth on Aug. 12 in connection with the death of teacher Sharon Turnbull, 33, who was shot through a screen door as she watched television at home on Aug. 6.

In a brief filed with the court, Hanley said, "The privacy of the child and his family will constantly be invaded and decimated by repeated reports of anticipated courtroom testimony in all upcoming hearings."

He presented clippings from area newspapers as evidence to the court. Kimball declined to accept them, saying he was not reading press accounts.

Hanley said, "There are specific instances of prejudice that have come out publicity," which have permitted the youth the be identified in the small town of 528 people on the Iowa border.

But Jay said in her brief, "Even if that is true, Lyle's source of further information should be truthful reporting and not the rumor and speculation which inevitably follow closed doors. While the residents of Lyle may know, from their own experience, the identity of the juvenile, this newspaper has done nothing which could spread the knowledge beyond Lyle."

Charlotte Peterson, an assistant county attorney, also said the press should be excluded from the hearing.

Mower County Attorney Fred Kraft has said he wanted the youth, whose name officials must withhold by law, to be tried as an adult because of the serious nature of the crime. Kraft could take the case to a grand jury if the youth is certified as an adult, which could charge him with first-degree murder. That is punishable by a mandatory life sentence, under which parole is possible after 17 years.

If the youth is found delinquent in the juvenile court system he cannot be held pas his 21st birthday.