A Florida appellate court on Thursday denied an appeal by local and nationwide media which sought to open a hearing Friday in the Sean Taylor murder case to the public.
Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Dennis J. Murphy last month ruled that he would would not allow the public and media to attend the hearing, saying the closure was necessary to ensure that the men charged in the 2007 shooting death of the former Washington Redskins safety receive a fair trial.
No date for trial has yet been set, but it is expected to begin this fall.
A three-judge panel denied the appeal of Murphy’s decision. The appeal was led by The Miami Herald and joined by Miami’s WPLG Channel 10 and The Washington Post. The judges did not issue a written opinion.
Karen Williams Kammer, an attorney who represented Miami’s WPLG Channel 10, said Thursday that the parties are considering options for further appeal.
The media outlets could request a hearing before the entire 10-member appellate court, or seek an expedited appeal to Florida’s state supreme court.
“I am shocked,” Kammer said. “In my 24 years practicing in this area in South Florida, aside from hearings involving children in child custody cases, I have never seen a judge close a hearing, especially when there has been no evidence presented by those wanting it closed to justify its being closed… For that reason, I find this very disappointing.”
Murphy, who placed a gag order on the case March 28, 2008, will consider whether to suppress alleged confessions and statements to police by two of the four defendants, Eric Rivera, 20, and Charles Wardlow, 21. They were in the same vehicle when they were stopped and arrested.
The four defendants face felony murder and burglary charges. A fifth entered a guilty plea and is expected to testify against the others. Prosecutors say Taylor was shot after confronting the men during a botched burglary attempt at his South Miami home.