THE ISSUE: Audrian County Associate Circuit Court Judge Linda Hamlett approved a joint motion closing the courtroom to members of the media for Jason Birdno's preliminary hearing.
OUR VIEW: The media is in the courtroom on behalf of the public
The case against Jason Birdno is obviously sensitive and graphic.
There are victims on both sides of the spectrum, there is emotional distress, there are uncomfortable details.
As a working medium we have an obligation to cover and report the Birdno case as representers of the public. When a case like this breaks, it is the Courier-Post that readers turn to for information, because they want the answers, they want the facts.
However, we, along with our fellow media members, were denied access to a public courtroom Aug. 23 when Audrain County Associate Circuit Court Judge Linda Hamlett approved a motion from both the state and the defense to close the courtroom where Birdno's preliminary hearing was to be held to members of the media. Yet nothing else (records or documents) indicates that other members of the public were banned from observing this hearing.
It is clear from this information that the media was singled-out in this matter and we are disheartened with the judge's ruling.
We strongly reflect the statement of our Missouri Press Association Attorney, Jean Maneke, who said, "The media is part of the public. The media is there on behalf of the public."
Despite Hamlett's ruling, we will continue to cover this case and present it to the public as it advances to the circuit level under Judge Keith Sutherland — a judge we have worked with recently and who respects the media's role in dispersing sensitive information in a responsible manner.