News outlets seek to unseal records in Marshall County, Kentucky school shooting case
A television station and two newspapers allege that Marshall Circuit Judge James T. Jameson has “acted outside of his jurisdiction” and made legal errors in his handling of the case of Gabe Parker, who is accused of killing two of his classmates and injuring 18.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Three western Kentucky media outlets are asking the state’s appeals court to force a judge to lift a gag order and unseal records in the trial of a 15-year-old student charged with murder in last month’s high school shooting in Benton, Ky.
WPSD-TV, along with the Paducah Sun and Marshall County Tribune-Courier newspapers, allege that Marshall Circuit Judge James T. Jameson has “acted outside of his jurisdiction” and made legal errors in his handling of the case of Gabe Parker, who is accused of killing two of his classmates and injuring 18.
Parker has been indicted on two counts of murder and fourteen counts of assault after he allegedly opened fire with a handgun at Marshall County High School shortly before 8 a.m. on January 23.
The Paxton Media organizations claim Jameson arraigned Parker as an adult in closed session – a violation of accepted court rules – and has violated state law by refusing to release a record of the arraignment hearing once it finished.
They also allege that Jameson has issued an “unconstitutional gag order” that bans attorneys from discussing the case outside of court – even aspects that already are publicly known.
“Taken together, the Court’s actions can only be seen as an attempt to conduct a high-profile murder case through a series of secret proceedings the public is not even permitted to know about, let alone observe before or after the fact,” the media outlets argue in court documents obtained by WDRB News. “These actions constitute a clear violation of the First Amendment, this Court’s precedents, and the public’s right to access proceedings in a criminal trial.”
They are asking the Kentucky Court of Appeals to lift the gag order, which they claim is “grossly overbroad and cannot be permitted to stand,” and unseal all court records, except those related to Parker’s “treatment, medical, mental, or psychological records” or his eligibility for benefits under the Federal Social Security Act.
The judge’s order effectively sealing court records was entered following a “secret telephonic hearing” that did not include any “factual or legal findings that could support the sealing of presumptively public records,” the media outlets say.
Their petition was filed by prominent First Amendment attorney Jon Fleischaker.
The news organizations also filed a complaint with the state appeals court earlier this week that alleges that Jameson and Parker’s mother are acquainted, and that the judge sought to stop a detective’s interview of the alleged shooter, according to the Paducah Sun.