Yolo County prosecutors and news organizations including The Sacramento Bee are opposing a public defender's attempt to close the September preliminary hearing of Daniel William Marsh, who has been accused of killing an elderly Davis couple.
Marsh, 16, faces charges of murder with special circumstances in the April killings of longtime Davis attorney and musician Oliver Northup, 87, and Claudia Maupin, 76, a pastoral associate and spiritual director, in their south Davis condominium.
Marsh's attorney, Yolo County Deputy Public Defender Ronald Johnson, cited "extensive and sensational" media coverage in the months after the teenager's June arrest in the killings, saying the publicity put Marsh's chances of a fair trial at risk.
A hearing on the defense motion is scheduled Thursday in Yolo Superior Court.
Yolo County district attorney's officials, in a motion filed last week, said the numbers of news outlets that picked up on the story is "completely irrelevent to the issue of the case," adding that the publicity would not damage Marsh's ability to be tried fairly in Yolo County.
Prosecutors also said that barring the public from the September hearing could deny the victims' families and friends from attending the proceedings.
Prosecutors in their motion said the DA's victim services office has been in contact with 26 members of the Northup and Maupin families in the months since the couple's deaths.
The Bee, The Davis Enterprise and the Woodland Daily Democrat newspapers filed a joint motion last week arguing against a closed hearing. Community website Davis Vanguard filed a separate motion. Both said barring the public would violate the First Amendment.
"The defendant would render the preliminary hearing a completely secret, sealed proceeding" in violation of constitutional law, wrote attorney Stephen Burns in his motion filed Thursday on behalf of the three newspapers.
Davis Vanguard attorney Paul Boylan scoffed at the defense motion in his brief, saying Marsh's attorneys urge the court to agree "that the public's First Amendment rights are weakest when the public interest is strongest."
Call The Bee's Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.