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Judge expands gag order in Hickory Street murders case

Adam M. Landerman (clockwise from top left) AlisR. Massaro JoshuF. Miner Bethany L. McKee  |  Supplied photos

Adam M. Landerman (clockwise, from top left), Alisa R. Massaro, Joshua F. Miner and Bethany L. McKee | Supplied photos

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Updated: April 17, 2013 6:09AM

A Will County judge on Friday expanded a gag order in the Hickory Street murders case, trying to put a clamp on police and other authorities who might release information about the crime.

The order was expanded in response to a story in The Sun-Times on Friday about the arrest of Bethany McKee, one of the four defendants in the Joliet murder case.

Lawyers were in court for a hearing on a motion from Sun-Times Media to unseal court files that were put under wraps after police reports from the crime were reported by the media.

“History has shown that when trials are conducted secretly, or when court proceedings are conducted secretly, bad things happen,” attorney Seth Stern, representing the Sun-Times, said in an attempt to unseal the court files.

But McKee’s attorney pointed to the story along with video on the newspaper website of McKee talking to police in Kankakee, where she was arrested, as reasons to tighten control on information available to the public.

“We think there are some very significant due process issues at stake,” attorney Charles Bretz said.

Judge Gerald Kinney acknowledged there were conflicting interests at stake and said, “In practice, when you see a defendant’s statement posted on the Internet, it’s potentially very problematic to the participants in this trial.”

Kinney then agreed to issue an order written by both defense and prosecuting attorneys that expands the previous gag order to Kankakee-area police and other agencies, including Shorewood police, that might have a connection to the case.

Kinney had previously barred prosecutors and defense attorneys from talking about the case.

Stern questioned the court’s authority to expand his gag order farther, and Kinney acknowledged he would have to resolve the issue soon.

“I’m not completely comfortable with my authority to do it, but I’m going to extend the order,” Kinney told lawyers at the hearing.

No ruling was made on the motion from Sun-Times Media to unseal the court files. A hearing on the matter was set for April 10.

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