Kaarma Trial Judge McLean to Favor Local Media Over Networks for Coverage [AUDIO]
Missoula District Judge Ed McLean said on Wednesday that he will give local media preferential coverage of the Markus Kaarma trial over that of national and international media.
Judge McLean, speaking to KGVO News, said he will follow the same process he always has during a district court trial, allowing media coverage in the courtroom that will not disturb the trial itself.
"I'll be following the same format that I've always followed in District Court trials," Judge McLean said. "We have reserved a certain section over by the north side of the jury box that we generally reserve for the media. The only requirement is that they not photograph any jurors, or show any jurors in their videos."
This is the same procedure followed during the Jordan Johnson trial in 2013.
"My experience over the past 25 years, is that the media always has free access to the courtroom, and I've never had anyone abuse that discretion or do anything inappropriate in the courtroom. So, I do not plan on tying the local media's hands," Judge McLean said.
Judge McLean said he has an entirely different view where national and international media access is concerned.
"My intention as to the national media is they can get their video links from local media," he said. "But, I'm not going to allow a plethora of cameras in the courtroom. Local media will be allowed to have their cameras in, and national media can acquire their video or photos from local media."
Judge McLean said the media provides a vital connection to the public in the justice system.
"My personal belief is that the courtrooms need to be open to the media because the vast majority of the public can't come down to the courtroom, but they have the right to be kept up to date, and if we don't allow our media the access they need, we're cutting off the public," Judge McLean said.
Defense Attorney Paul Ryan said he and his team are looking forward to having full media coverage of the trial itself, so the public can hear in context some of what he termed "both sides of the story" as far as the media is concerned.
"We've commented before that some media sources have reported there was baiting going on that I think was initiated early on by some media sources that we believe is just not accurate," Ryan said. "There's nothing that could be seen within that garage that would indicate that there was anything set up for bait. It's no different than anyone else's garage in Missoula that has valuables inside, but nothing specifically set up regarding baiting."
On Thursday, Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul also voiced his support for having open media access to the Kaarma trial.
For the trial itself, Judge McLean outlined the schedule.
"We've reserved December first and second for picking the jury," he said. "On the third, we'll have law and motion. On the fourth, we start the trial with opening statements. Each side has been given five days for the presentation of their case in chief. So, we're looking at a 12 day trial at the outside."
Kaarma has been charged with deliberate homicide, and has entered a plea of not guilty in the shooting death of German exchange student Diren Dede, 17, who was trespassing in the Kaarma's garage early in the morning of April 27. Kaarma is currently free on $30,000 bond. Judge McLean has denied a defense motion for a change of venue, so the trial will be in Missoula District Court starting on Monday, December 1.
The case has garnered international media attention, since it involves a teenager visiting in Missoula from Hamburg, Germany, and the concept called 'The Castle Doctrine', in which the use of force might be used to protect property.
Missoula District Judge Ed McLean