June 26, 2013
OTTAWA — An attorney for a juvenile charged in the double homicide of two teens wants to exclude the media from court hearings.
Michael Fay’s attorney, Bill Kluge, of Lima, filed a motion this month to try to prevent the media from being in the courtroom during a hearing next week. The hearing is to determine whether Fay should be tried as an adult.
A hearing on the motion has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday to consider whether to allow the media in court. The Lima News has joined several other media outlets to hire Toledo attorney Thomas G. Pletz to fight to keep the hearing open.
Lima News New Media Editor David Trinko said it’s important to wage a courtroom battle when necessary to ensure the public can be informed on important cases.
“The Lima News is proud to defend the public’s right to know what’s happening inside the courtroom. It’s a right defendants, prosecutors and taxpayers alike should all value. There are other safeguards already in place in the justice system to address the defense’s concerns,” Trinko said.
Kluge wants to close the courtroom to insulate prospective jurors from information that could potentially taint their neutrality, he wrote in his motion for closure filed in Putnam County Juvenile Court.
Fay is charged with two counts of aggravated murder in the May 9 deaths of Blake, 17, and Blaine Romes. The two were found dead after Fay fled to Columbus. Fay told authorities where to find their bodies.
The brothers were living with Fay in an Ottawa trailer with their mothers, Michelle Grothause and Vicki Fay. The families had recently moved in together.
Kluge writes in his motion the court has a duty to protect a child’s constitutional rights to an impartial jury.
Kluge declined to comment on the motion when contacted Wednesday.
Under Ohio law, the state’s Supreme Court has ruled hearings for children are open unless the defense can present a compelling argument that shows the child’s right to privacy outweighs the public right to information. Since the Ohio Supreme Court ruling, the burden has become a steep one for defense attorneys to meet to close the hearing.
Kluge argues Fay’s case has garnered media attention, not only locally, but nationally. He said the case been covered by the media in print or online more than 36 times. He attached articles as evidence with his motion.
Kluge further writes letting too much information out could potentially be dangerous to Fay should he ever be placed in general population. He also argues other parties to the case could be identified and put at risk.
At the hearing next week, the prosecution only needs to produce enough evidence to show Fay may have been involved in the murders. If the judge finds there is enough evidence to link him to the crime he has to, by law, send the case to adult court. The judge has no discretion in a case in which the prosecution seeks a mandatory bind over.