June 28, 2013
LIMA — The media will be allowed in the courtroom for the trial of a teen charged with killing two boys, a judge ruled Thursday.
Putnam County Juvenile Judge Michael Borer ruled in favor of various media outlets seeking to keep the courtroom open in the case against 17-year-old Michael Fay. Fay is charged with two counts of aggravated murder in the May 9 deaths of Blake, 17, and Blaine Romes, 14. The two were found dead after Fay fled to Columbus. He told authorities where to find their bodies.
The Romes brothers were living with Fay in an Ottawa trailer with their mother, Michelle Grothause, and Fay's mother, Vicki Fay. The families recently had moved in together.
The only hearing likely left at juvenile court is scheduled for Tuesday. The prosecution is seeking to try Fay as an adult. The judge has to decide whether there is enough evidence to link Fay to the crime. If there is, the judge must send the case to adult court. The law gives him no discretion in mandatory bind-over hearings.
As an adult, Fay would face up to life in prison. As a juvenile, he would face imprisonment until his 21st birthday.
In Thursday’s hearing, Fay’s attorney Shannon McAlister argued his chances for a fair trial could be jeopardized by media coverage. She said more than 60 articles had been printed or published online about the case.
“We would ask the court exclude the media from all other pretrial proceedings,” McAlister said.
Attorney Terry Davis, representing The Lima News and several other media outlets, argued McAlister presented no evidence to support any claims Fay would be at harm or his ability to defend himself against criminal charges would be hindered.
“Without presenting evidence, there cannot be a closure,” Davis said. “This idea of harm to Mr. Fay, the cat’s already out of the bag.”
Davis said the case has captured national attention, with many people aware of Fay’s name and limited facts in the case.
He said there were less restrictive alternatives to blocking the media from covering the case, such as questioning jurors about pretrial publicity during jury selection. Davis said the defense request must be denied so the proceedings in the courtroom are transparent and people can see the system operates in a fair manner.
“It has to give way to the public’s right to access,” he said.
Judge Borer agreed with Davis that McAlister presented no evidence, only an argument. He also agreed there are other avenues to try to make sure Fay gets a fair trial.