LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A Jefferson Circuit Court judge ruled Monday that a competency hearing for triple-murder Brice Rhodes on Friday will be open to the media and public, despite his attorney’s request to close it.

Attorney Tom Griffiths asked Judge Julie Kaelin to bar the public and media from access to the hearing because mention of Rhodes' medical issues should be private and the hearing would also include discussions of his past issues with his attorneys, which would violate attorney-client privilege.

"Both of these topics, judge, his competency and attorney client matters, are not things that would be brought before a jury, so they are likely, if any jurors became aware of them through the press or any means, likely to prejudice the jury," he said.

And if that happens, Griffiths indicated Rhodes would ask for a change of venue for the trial. 

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Elizabeth Jones Brown told the judge that competency hearings are typically open and "we don’t believe this case is any different."

In addition, First-Amendment Attorney Rick Adams, who represented WDRB News, said closing the hearing was an "extraordinary" request, especially when there are less restrictive alternatives, such as redacting certain  information.

Rhodes "has not met his burden to overcome the strong presumption, a long tradition of openness of these kinds of proceedings," Adams said.

Kaelin, who began the hearing by saying competency hearings are generally open to the public, asked Griffiths why less restrictive measures used in other cases, such as redaction, wouldn’t be sufficient for Rhodes.

Griffiths responded that "functionally, the entire matter would have to be redacted" and the judge would need to issue a gag order on members of the press if they heard the information. 

The judge was not swayed by the argument and ordered the hearing open to the public but allowed that some information may be redacted.

The media and the public's First Amendment right "prevails" and no evidence was presented that the hearing being open would harm Rhodes, she said. 

The high-profile case has been pending since 2016 and was scheduled for trial in January 2022 before Rhodes' defense asked for a competency evaluation, claiming Rhodes had an "intellectual disability."

Because of a statewide backlog, it has taken the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center in La Grange, or KCPC, more than a year to evaluate Rhodes on whether he is competent to stand trial or should be eligible for the death penalty.

A psychiatrist is expected to testify about the results of Rhodes' evaluation at a competency hearing Friday.

Rhodes is accused of shooting and killing Christopher Jones in May 2016.

Later that month, he allegedly killed 14-year-old Larry Ordway and 16-year-old Maurice Gordon. Police have said the two were killed at Rhodes' home in Clifton. Their bodies were dumped in the Shawnee neighborhood and set on fire.

Rhodes allegedly killed the two brothers because he feared they would tell police about his involvement in Jones' murder.

Rhodes is being held on a $1 million full cash bond.

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Jason Riley is a criminal justice reporter for WDRB.com. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after 14 years with The Courier-Journal. He graduated from Western Kentucky University. Jason can be reached at 502-585-0823 and jriley@wdrb.com.