A judge this morning agreed that The Florida Times-Union and news partner First Coast News should have more immediate access to court motions filed in the cases against Cristian Fernandez.
One outstanding record in question, however, will be filed under seal, Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper said. That record is a deposition given by a detective involved in the case.
Fernandez, 13, is set to go to trial next month on a charge of sexually molesting a 5-year-old half brother. He is set for trial in September in the death of his 2-year-old half brother.
Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper told attorney Bill Sheppard, hired by the media parties, that prosecutors and defense attorneys will now be responsible for making their own redactions in motions before they are filed with the clerk of court. Cooper had previously ordered the clerk to provide her with any motions for her review for redactions before they were entered into the public record.
Sheppard said he had been told that Cooper sought to review the motions because of the inadvertent release months ago of confidential records as part of the court file. Sheppard said his review found that it has taken five to 10 days for some motions to be entered into the court file as public records.
Sheppard filed a motion last week to intervene on behalf of the Times-Union and First Coast News. Sheppard argued before Cooper this morning that rules of procedure required the parties in the cases, not the court, to make redactions in any motions and to file a certificate noting those redactions.
Cooper agreed and told Sheppard to provide her with a copy of the specific procedure that should be followed before she entered an order making the change.
In a separate matter, Cooper said the deposition of Sheriff's Office detective Mechelle Soehlig will be sealed. Cooper reviewed the deposition to help her rule on a defense request to re-depose Soehlig to ask her questions she hadn't been asked by public defenders, who once represented Fernandez.
Sheppard argued that the public, through the media, should be entitled to learn the contents of the deposition and how it may have played into Cooper's ruling to grant the motion to re-depose. She told Sheppard that since the case hadn't been to trial, protecting such critical information was essential to ensuring that Fernandez got a fair trial.
Sheppard disagreed and said he would consult with the media companies about challenging her decision.
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