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Prosecutor, Family Attorney Criticize Lamorinda Patch Coverage of Merrick Case In Times Story

A county prosecutor and attorney representing the family of a minor child allegedly victimized by a local teacher detailed their reasons for barring the public from future hearings in Friday's Contra Costa Times.

A story in Friday's editions of the Contra Costa Times included comments sharply critical of Lamorinda Patch and its coverage of the case of Michael Merrick, a Stanley Middle School teacher in custody on 17 felony counts of sexual misconduct with a minor.

The story, written by Times reporter Malaika Fraley and published under copyright, detailed a request for closure of all future "substantive" hearings by county prosecutor Johanna Schonfield and former prosecutor Richard Madsen, currently hired by the victim's family.

Judge Clare Maier's decision to grant the request for closure was reported in a story Jan. 18.

Today's Times story said court officials and observers regard the judge's decision as "largely unprecedented in Contra Costa County's criminal courts."

Dolly February 27, 2011 at 11:51 PM
Something is going on with this case. I'm not sure what or why but the CC Times article wittingly or unwittingly has exposed something odd.
eliz February 28, 2011 at 09:47 PM
JohnK: I wonder why you care what was said. The kid's identity was not revealed by Patch nor was anything that could be "hints" about who she is. Nor can I believe that anyone in Lafayette would harass her. I think Dolly is right. Someone is stirring the pot and for reasons unclear...
Nicholas March 01, 2011 at 04:06 PM
Has anyone suspected that this may be an excuse to further restrict public access to public records and trials??
Danielle March 01, 2011 at 08:11 PM
This has really turned out to be an interesting thread. I saw this in the Times today and have to wonder --- they can seek out sealed documents relating to a juvenile sex crime but Patch is wrong for asking to see arrest records on a similar case?? Anyone else see this as really sort of hypocritical at least? "(Judge) Phimister refused to unseal grand jury transcripts and other court records. Bay Area News Group and other media members are seeking the documents, which include Phillip Garrido's mental health records and detailed testimony that Dugard gave to the grand jury. Phimister, in a 10-page ruling, found that releasing the transcripts and health records before jury selection would prejudice the couple's right to a fair trial."
Deborah March 05, 2011 at 04:03 PM
I concur with eliz. This has been my experience. There has been heartwarming compassion for Merrick's family and also respect for the victim/survivor, and the family's courageousness. (In my circles, anyway.) It is not talked about, other than to check in about whether or not kind support is needed. There is a big difference between malicious gossip and talking about an issue to shine light for greater understanding so that malicious gossip is mitigated.

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