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Published: Thursday, 6/27/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Media fight exclusion attempt

Protest filed over motion to bar journalists from murder pretrial

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS AND MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Judge Michael A. Borer speaks to Michael Aaron Fay and his attorney William Kluge in Juvenile Court  in connection to aggravated murder at the Putnam County Courthouse in Ottawa, Tuesday, May 21, 2013. Judge Michael A. Borer speaks to Michael Aaron Fay and his attorney William Kluge in Juvenile Court in connection to aggravated murder at the Putnam County Courthouse in Ottawa, Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
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OTTAWA, Ohio — The Blade, in conjunction with media partner WTVG-TV, Channel 13, and WLIO-TV of Lima, filed a protest with Putnam County Juvenile Court on Wednesday to challenge the request by an attorney for a teenager accused of murder that media be excluded from reporting proceedings in juvenile court.

William Kluge, a court-appointed attorney for Michael Aaron Fay, filed a motion to prohibit media coverage of all pretrial hearings, including an adult certification hearing Tuesday to have the case moved to common pleas court. Judge Michael Borer has set a hearing for 1:30 p.m. today to consider the attorney’s motion.

The Fay youth, 17, is accused of killing brothers Blaine Romes, 14, and Blake Romes, 17, in a trailer on North Perry Street, where he lived with his mother, the victims, and their mother. He faces two counts of delinquency in connection with aggravated murder for the deaths on May 9.

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In the motion filed by the three media outlets, Toledo attorney Fritz Byers argues against the prohibition, citing Ohio Supreme Court rulings that “the exclusion of the public should be applied sparingly.”

Mr. Kluge argues that barring the media will protect potential jurors from learning information in news coverage of the hearings that would taint their neutrality. “Although the right to a public trial is a protective safeguard from an abuse of prosecution and judicial power, this court must first protect the integrity of the alleged delinquent child’s constitutional right to an impartial jury,” Mr. Kluge wrote.

In the teen’s previous appearances, Judge Borer has allowed reporters and photographers and the defendant’s relatives in the courtroom.

Mr. Byers rejected the argument against publicity, again citing the Ohio Supreme Court, which has said the exclusion of the press and public should be “a matter of strictest necessity.” “... The mere fact of pre-trial publicity — even extensive publicity — is not enough to ‘taint’ a jury pool or otherwise imperil the fairness of an impending trial,” Mr. Byers wrote.

Mr. Byers further argued that traditional court methods such as jury instructions, voir dire, and changes of venue, must be shown to be insufficient means to ensure a fair trial before court closure is permissible.

WTOL-TV, Channel 11; WUPW-TV, Channel 36; WNWO-TV, Channel 24; the Courier in Findlay, and the Lima News also filed entries of appearance and requests for media presence Wednesday for today’s hearing, according to court staff.

According to a court employee, Judge Borer also will rule on a competency evaluation of the teen. A request by Mr. Kluge to have his client examined by a court expert to determine his competency for trial was approved May 23 by Judge Borer.

If probable cause is established at Tuesday’s hearing, state law requires a 16 or 17-year-old be certified to an adult court if charged with murder or aggravated murder.

The case would be bound over to common pleas court, where prosecutors would present evidence and testimony to the grand jury for a possible indictment.

The Fay youth is being held in the Wood County Juvenile Detention Facility, Bowling Green. Putnam County lacks a youth facility.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com, 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.


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