No decision yet on push to unseal motions in Bliefnick murder trial
QUINCY (WGEM) - An Adams County judge heard arguments Wednesday from an attorney representing three local media organizations pushing to unseal motions and hearings in a first-degree murder case.
Don Craven, representing WGEM News, The Herald-Whig and Muddy River News, argued that a blanket order from Judge Robert Adrian requiring all motions in the case of Timothy Bliefnick to be filed under seal “stands the concept of openness on its head.”
Craven pointed out that no written motion was ever made by the Adams County State’s Attorney or Bliefnick’s attorney, Casey Schnack, to seal the motions.
Assistant Adams County State’s Attorney Josh Jones argued that he had verbally requested the motions be sealed during a bond hearing for Bliefnick, and Schnack agreed then to have the motions sealed .
Jones argued that while the motions and hearings would be closed to the public and members of the media, the trial will not be.
“It will absolutely be open to the public,” Jones said. “It will absolutely be open to the media.”
He also argued that unsealing motions could potentially contaminate the potential jury pool in Adams County, and that a potential change of venue would jeopardize the ability of the state to bring Bliefnick’s case to trial within the statutorily mandated 90 days. Right now, the trial is set to begin May 22.
Following Jones’ arguments, Adrian asked Jones several questions about provisions for closing meetings outlined in the Illinois Open Meetings Act. That act refers to “all legislative, executive, administrative or advisory bodies of the State, counties, townships, cities, villages, incorporated towns, school districts and all other municipal corporations, boards, bureaus, committees or commissions of this State, and any subsidiary bodies of any of the foregoing. ...”
The Open Meetings Act, however, contains no provisions related to court proceedings.
When Adrian asked Jones about exclusions in the Open Meetings Act for ongoing investigations, Jones said the law allows police to withhold information about ongoing investigations. Jones also said the investigation in this case will continue throughout the duration of the trial.
“Investigations don’t stop just because we have empaneled a jury,” Jones said.
Schnack also argued for all motions to be filed under seal.
“There isn’t a lot that the state and I agree on, but this is one of them,” Schnack said.
She argued this would help protect the “sanctity of the jury selection process.”
Adrian said he would take the arguments under advisement and give the parties seven days to submit authority on the case. He said he would issue a written ruling after that time.
After Adrian’s statement, Craven asked the court to remember the short time before the start of the trial.
An apparently agitated Adrian then said, “It’s ticking on all of us.”
The judge said that while he understands time is short, he will take his time issuing his ruling.
“I’m going to make sure we get this right,” he said.
Adrian had agreed to hear the case in April but delayed arguments until Wednesday.
Bliefnick has pleaded not guilty in connection with the shooting death of his estranged wife, Rebecca Bliefnick, 41.
Timothy Bliefnick was arrested March 13 and remains held without bond in the Adams County Jail.
On Feb. 23, police found Rebecca dead at her home in the 2500 block of Kentucky Road with multiple gunshot wounds.
- Judge Adrian approves petition from local media, sets hearing date
- WGEM joins news outlets seeking to unseal Bliefnick trial documents
- Bliefnick pleads not guilty to murder of estranged wife
- Bliefnick makes first court appearance, judge denies bail
- Estranged husband of homicide victim charged with murder
- Police search estranged husband’s home as part of investigation into wife′s death
- Kentucky Road death investigation continues
- Quincy Police share more information about homicide investigation
- Quincy police conduct death investigation
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