Lawyers for KHQ Inc. are seeking to reverse a Kootenai County magistrate judge’s decision to close the preliminary hearing for a 14-year-old accused of murdering his father and younger brother.
Attorneys for the news organization on Wednesday asked the 1st District Court of Idaho to order Magistrate Judge Clark A. Peterson to open the hearing for Eldon Gale Samuel III, who is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the March 24 slayings inside a Coeur d’Alene emergency housing unit owned by St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho.
Samuel’s public defender asked the judge to close the hearing, arguing that sensitive information could prejudice the teen’s right to a fair trial and affect his chances for rehabilitation. The Kootenai County prosecutor’s office argued against closing the hearing, noting that Samuel has been charged as an adult.
Peterson agreed April 22 to close the hearing to the public.
Wednesday’s filing by the Spokane law firm Witherspoon Kelley argues that Idaho law and state court precedent support keeping the preliminary hearing open and that no evidence justifying closing the hearing had been presented to the court, as the law requires. It states “… how can the public evaluate the fair application of justice when the courtroom door is shut in the public’s face?”
KHQ is owned by Cowles Co., which publishes The Spokesman-Review.