WDRB attorney: Prosecutors trying to 'hide evidence' in murder of 7-year-old boy
The court file is under the supervision of the judge and “the attorneys can’t by private agreement just decide they want to hide evidence,” WDRB attorney Jon Fleischaker said in an interview. “The public has a right to access this information.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – WDRB News has asked a judge to compel the Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office to publicly file evidence in the murder case of a 7-year-old boy shot and killed by a stray bullet in May.
Prosecutors in Louisville typically turn over evidence to defense attorneys and also put that information in a public case filed at the Judicial Center downtown, as specified by local court rules.
But on Nov. 3, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Ryane Conroy notified Circuit Court Judge Brian Edwards that she was not going to file evidence in the high profile murder case against 23-year-old Wyatt Williams. She told a reporter it was up to individual prosecutors to decide whether to publicly file evidence.
The evidence, according to documents describing what was turned over to the defense, included three interviews Louisville Metro Police had with Williams, in May, June and August. Williams was arrested and charged in August with the murder of Dequante Hobbs Jr., who was shot while sitting at his kitchen table.
Under local court rules, evidence in criminal cases is required to be “filed with the court and made part of public record,” according to a motion filed by attorneys Jon Fleischaker and Michael Abate, who represent WDRB.
“It appears that the Commonwealth’s Attorney and defense counsel have effectively sealed the discovery materials by private agreement,” according to the motion, filed in Jefferson Circuit Court on Friday.
A judge is allowed to seal evidence after holding a hearing to decide whether there is a “sufficiently compelling need” that “outweighs the public’s right to access court documents,” the attorneys for the news station argue.
The court file is under the supervision of the judge and “the attorneys can’t by private agreement just decide they want to hide evidence,” Fleischaker said in an interview. “The public has a right to access this information.”
Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine said in a statement that “our office complies with the rules of discovery as set forth by the Kentucky Supreme Court.” He declined to elaborate because of the pending challenge by WDRB.
In 2008, the Kentucky Supreme Court allowed Louisville prosecutors to seal the evidence in the murder case against Cecil New, who was later convicted of killing 4-year-old Cesar Ivan Aguilar-Cano.
However, the judge in that case held a hearing and found releasing the evidence likely would "irreparably damage" New's right to an impartial jury.
The high court deferred to the judge in concluding there were no less restrictive alternatives.
The judge in the Williams case has not seen the evidence or been asked to seal it. Asked for comment, Edwards said he would “address this or any other matter appropriately raised in court, which has not occurred at this time.”
WDRB’s motion will be heard in court on Jan. 8.
Earlier this week, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Foster told a judge she had turned over evidence against a Louisville police officer charged with sexual assault to his defense attorney but did not file the information in the public court file.
Foster told a reporter it would be filed in the public record at a later date. WDRB News is reviewing this issue.
Dequante's murder has garnered much public interest, even in a year where the city has once again surpassed 100 homicides. The child was shot in the neck while eating at his kitchen table when a bullet went through a window at his home on West Madison Street.
According to the police report, several people were "hanging out" in the rear of Dr. W.J. Hodge Street, talking and playing dice when Williams pulled out a gun and fired several shots toward one of the people in the group,
Williams has pleaded not guilty.
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