EUREKA – News media can have some, but not complete, access to the court records of a nine-year-old Goodfield boy charged with murder and arson, a Woodford County judge ruled on Thursday. Records in juvenile cases are kept private unless a judge rules otherwise. Juvenile hearings likewise are closed to the public, although media can attend.
According to Judge Charles Feeney, media can have access to the boy's delinquency case, but records related to an abuse and neglect case would remain private.
“We go about the people’s business so the people have the right to be informed,” Feeney said.
The requests were made on behalf of the Chicago Tribune and news media within the 11th Judicial Circuit.
Ryan Denham of Normal radio station WGLT, who coordinates media courtroom coverage within the circuit, told the judge that access to the records would help reporters provide better and more accurate coverage, ultimately serving the community better.
Five people spoke against the request, including the boy's court-appointed public defender, Peter Dluski of Pekin, local attorney Dan Harrod, who represents the boy's father, local attorney Andrew Lankton and Woodford County State's Attorney Greg Minger.
You have free articles remaining.
They argued granting access to the media would not be in the best interest of the boy. Dluski noted the negative impact “outweighs the media’s ability to write a story.”
The boy is accused of setting a fire that killed five people in a mobile home near Goodfield. He is charged with eight felony counts that include five counts of murder and three counts of arson. The April 6 fire in the Timberline Trailer Court killed Kathryn Murray, 69, Jason Wall, 34, Rose Alwood, two, Damaien Wall, two and Ariel Wall, one. The boy was related to Murray and the children. Jason Wall was his mother's boyfriend.
The boy's mother, Katrina Alwood, survived the fire. She has since given up her parental rights. The child is staying with foster guardians who are related to his father, according to information previously shared in court hearings.
The boy, who is charged as a juvenile, is too young to be taken into custody. He is believed to be one of the youngest children charged with such serious crimes. According to Minger, if the boy is convicted, the state would likely seek a term of probation.
The boy would not be jailed unless he fails to abide by the terms and conditions set forth in his sentencing.
Minger told the judge he anticipates filing some motions in the next few weeks that will likely require a lengthy hearing. The next court date is set for Nov. 22.