Amy Beddows 5:26 p.m., June 18
Local News Media Battle DA in Court For Public Access
San Diego television station KFMB News 8 is leading a court challenge, battling the District Attorney’s office trying to gain access to 20 search warrants connected to a high-profile murder case.
Deputy district attorneys Patrick Espinoza and Garret Wong responded by citing a desire to protect the “privacy and dignity” of the murder victim and her family.
The wife of a Marine who was deployed to a war zone, Brittany Dawn Killgore, 22, was found dead last April. Three persons have been charged with her murder: Louis Ray Perez, 45, and Jessica Lynn Lopez, 25, and Dorothy Gracemarie Maraglino, 37.
Guylyn Cummins, an attorney for more than ten named news organizations, argues that the victim’s family’s wishes do not “ rise to the level of a compelling interest sufficient to support secrecy” because “if such were the case, every victim’s family could automatically trump the constitutionally and statutorily-mandated public access rights in every criminal case.”
Attorneys for the DA’s office also expressed fear of “publicity so inherently prejudicial as to endanger a fair trial.” The news media’s attorney responded that there is a “heavy burden” on the party seeking nondisclosure and “speculative fears about pretrial publicity cannot support secrecy.”
At a hearing yesterday morning, Superior Court Judge Runston Maino noted that there is a large potential jury pool in San Diego County, with a population of 2.8 million, and that it has been possible in past to seat non-prejudiced juries in murder cases with significant pre-trial publicity.
Defense attorney Jeff Reichert, who represents Louis Perez, joined the news media and asked the court to unseal the requested documents. Defender Sloan Ostbye, who represents Jessica Lopez, joined the DA’s office in asking for all search warrants to be sealed. Defense attorney Sean Leslie, who represents Dorothy Maraglino, did not take a position in court yesterday.
The three defendants, who are pleading not guilty to murder, will be before Judge Maino on June 27 to hear his decision on this matter, in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse in Vista.