Judge Rules Samuel Hearing Sealed - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Judge Rules Samuel Hearing Sealed

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Court documents were sealed by a judge this week in Eldon Samuel's murder case. Court documents were sealed by a judge this week in Eldon Samuel's murder case.
COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -

A judge sealed the evidentiary portion of Eldon Samuel III's upcoming preliminary hearing during a status conference this afternoon.

The evidentiary portion is the majority of a preliminary hearing, where both parties present their evidence.

Samuel III is accused of murdering his father and brother last month.

Judge Clark Peterson addressed the parties this afternoon.

"I do not do this lightly," Judge Peterson said. "I do not remember ever having done this in a similar case."

The ruling to seal followed a motion filed earlier this month by Samuel's lawyer, requesting all records and proceedings in this case be sealed.

This morning, Judge Peterson held a status hearing on the motion at the Kootenai County Jail.

The defense argued that leaving the case open would fuel media sensationalism, and would lead to an unfair trial for the 14-year-old.

They claimed as a juvenile, Samuel III should have the right to confidentiality, as is the case with most juvenile trials.

Moreover, the defense argued that the charges, patricide and fratricide, reduced this case to a family tragedy rather than one of public interest.

The Samuel family, they said, including Eldon himself, would find it difficult to recover from this trial if more attention was drawn to the proceedings.

The Prosecution, who opposed the motion, argued that the defense lacked evidence and legal precedent to have the case sealed. They cautioned Judge Peterson not to make a ruling "based on emotion."

A third party -- KHQ's own legal team -- also addressed the motion in front of Judge Peterson.

They, too, took a stand against the defense's request, citing the public's first amendment right to public information, including court records.

In the end, Judge Peterson rationalized his decision by the consequences of each outcome.

"If I was wrong and failed to seal, there would be no remedy for this juvenile," he said. "But if I sealed when I should not have, the remedy is simply delayed information."

Eldon Samuel III, the judge said, is a remarkably unique defendant. If convicted, Samuel would only be the fifth minor ever tried and convicted of murder as an adult in Idaho.

The defense has also filed a continuance, delaying the preliminary hearing in this case. During today's hearing,

they indicated it will be at least two weeks before a preliminary hearing.

Jason Gray, KHQ's lawyer, said an appeal is possible after the judge enters an official written decision tomorrow.

He also said this decision only affects the preliminary hearing. If the case goes to trial after that, it will be moved to a district court, and

a separate motion must be filed for further proceedings to be sealed as well.

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