Appellate Court chastises Circuit Judge, orders immediate release of records in Marshall County High shooting

Here is a copy of the Court of Appeals order for intermediate relief — COURT OF APPEALS ORDER FOR INTERMEDIATE RELIEF

Paducah Sun staff report

The Kentucky Court of Appeals on Thursday ordered Marshall County Circuit Judge James Jameson to release arraignment video and other records in the case of accused Marshall County High School shooter Gabe Parker.

Appellate Judge Glenn Acree in an at-times sharply worded ruling granted two petitions for writs ordering release of the records. He said Jameson’’s action closing Parker’’s Feb. 16 arraignment to the media and public violated Kentucky law.

His ruling also recited a litany of procedural and jurisdictional defects in other actions taken by Jameson to seal virtually all records in the case and his issuance of a sealed gag order prior to the arraignment. Parker, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, has been certified as an adult pursuant to a state law making that mandatory in cases of people 14 and older charged with using a firearm to commit murder.

Acree’s ruling came in response to petitions filed on behalf of The Paducah Sun, WPSD-TV and the Marshall County Tribune-Courier challenging an array of actions by Jameson that have kept all but the barest information about the high-profile case under seal. The petitions were filed last week by Louisville First Amendment attorneys Jon Fleischaker, Michael Abate and Casey Hinkle.

Acree’s opinion cited several Kentucky cases and court rules to conclude Jameson’’s argument that a statute pertaining to confidentiality of juvenile records required closing Parker’s arraignment is baseless.

“Nothing in these statutory confidentiality protections justifies (Jameson’’s) decision to close the arraignment to the public,” Acree wrote.

The ruling says Jameson further erred by failing to conduct a hearing and failing to enter specific findings prior to ordering the arraignment closed.

Acree said Jameson made similar procedural errors in his actions sealing the juvenile court file and that Kentucky law makes it clear those files are public record now that the case is in circuit court.

And he said Jameson made like procedural errors in issuing a sealed gag order Feb. 16 against the commonwealth and county attorneys and Parker’s defense attorney.

Acree said he was not voiding that order only because Jameson represented in his response to the news organizations’ filings that the order is no longer in effect.

But Acree cited a prior Kentucky case on gag orders and wrote, “We repeat the suspicion expressed in (the Kentucky case) that ‘perhaps it is the fact that the litigants wanted the file closed which suggested that there might be need for public scrutiny.’” 

Acree ordered immediate release of the records sought by the news organizations and wrote, “Immediate means now.” He also ordered Jameson to refrain from closing any future proceedings in the case or sealing any records without following “the applicable procedures mandated by the jurisprudence cited in this Order.”

The Marshall County Circuit Court Clerk’s office released records from the case in several waves Thursday. Those records indicate that Parker did confess to a state police detective that he carried out the shooting. They also indicate there is school surveillance video of Parker carrying out the shooting, although that video is not included in materials initially received by a Sun reporter Thursday. The records also say Parker later led officers to the weapon used in the shooting.

Two 15-year-old students were killed in the Jan. 23 attack in the Marshall County High School commons. Fourteen others were wounded by gunfire and several more received injuries fleeing the attack.

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