Crime & Courts

Judge won't restrict public access to hearing

NEWTON — A judge on Monday denied a defense attorney's request to restrict electronic media access to a preliminary hearing for a woman charged with endangering and battering her 19-month-old son.

Gregory Barker, the attorney for Katheryn Nycole Dale, contended that electronic-media coverage of her preliminary hearing Wednesday could harm her right to a fair trial by causing potential jurors to be biased.

Dale, 21, is charged with child endangerment, child abuse and aggravated battery over injuries to her son, Vincent Hill.

The toddler died in late March of injuries that included a beating and, likely, suffocation, County Attorney David Yoder has said. Vincent and his mother had been living at a North Newton duplex with Dale's boyfriend, Chad Carr. Carr, 26, has been charged with first-degree murder in the boy's death. Carr also faces two counts of aggravated battery and two counts of child abuse in connection with Vincent's injuries.

In denying the defense motion, District Judge Joe Dickinson said "there is the public's right to know" about court proceedings and a "presumption of openness."

Dickinson also said that extensive media coverage of other high-profile local cases did not taint pools of prospective jurors.

The judge said he would confer with attorneys before Wednesday's hearing to talk about some witnesses who might wish not to be shown on camera, under a high court rule.

Barker, Dale's defense attorney, said he wanted to limit media access to the preliminary hearing because the proceeding would offer only part of the evidence and that he and his client "don't want jurors making decisions on part of the evidence."

In a preliminary hearing, the prosecution is tasked with presenting enough evidence to show there is reason for the defendant to stand trial.

"Our interest here is justice," Barker said.

Lyndon Vix, an attorney representing The Eagle and KWCH-Channel 12, argued that coverage of a case in court before trial has not been shown to influence prospective jurors in a number of highly publicized cases in Wichita and in much smaller cities around the region.

If potential jurors read or see something about a case beforehand, the jury-selection process gives attorneys ample opportunity to determine if that information has caused them to have a prejudice, Vix said.

Also, Vix said, information is fleeting: People read and hear things and often forget what they saw, he said.

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