Jason Birdno's case is going to Audrain County Circuit Court following a preliminary hearing last week.
The Monroe City man is charged with five counts of first degree statutory sodomy involving a minor girl.
Even thought Birdno's preliminary hearing went on as scheduled after being moved on a change of venue motion from Monroe County, Associate Circuit Judge Linda Hamlett entertained a joint motion closing the courtroom to members of the media.
"That is very unusual," Jean Maneke, an attorney with the Missouri Press Association, said. "Very, very unusual."
Monroe County Prosecutor Talley Kendrick and Public Defender David Clayton, Birdno's attorney, noted 10 different reasons for banning the media including: "coverage in this case disclosing facts that are sensitive in nature," "prior coverage has caused emotional distress to the victim," and "further coverage would impair the defendant's right to a fair and impartial jury."
"It's certainly understandable that the judge is taking into the consideration the well-being of the minor child, and to some degree that makes it a little more understandable about closing the courtroom," Maneke said. "I fail to see there would be any justification in closing in closing it to the media, but leaving it open to the public."
And that's where confusion lies.
No court records or documents indicate members of the public were barred from the courtroom, other than members of the media.
"The law in the state is — there's a constitutional provision that courts are to be open to the public. If you open them to the pubic, the media is part of the public. The media is there on behalf of the public. Frankly, it's a little confusing as to why a judge — at least it's confusing to me — as to why a judge would think that it's okay for the public to be there, but not the media."
Birdno is scheduled to be arraigned in Audrain County Circuit Wednesday Sept. 13. He will go before Judge Keith Sutherland, the same judge who presided over the Calvin Duane Pettey murder trial and sentenced him to life in prison earlier this week.