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Appeals Court Allows Closed Hearing In Sean Taylor Murder Case

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MIAMI (CBS4) — A Florida appeals court has barred the media from covering a key pretrial hearing in the case against four men accused in the 2007 killing of South Florida resident and former Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor.

Friday, the appeals judges sided with Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy, who closed Friday’s hearing to avoid undue publicity that might influence potential jurors. The hearing involved whether statements made by suspects in Taylor’s killing can be used a trial.

Charles Wardlow, Jason Scott Mitchell, Eric Rivera Jr. and Timothy Brown are accused of fatally shooting Taylor during a botched robbery at his Palmetto Bay home. A fifth man, Venjah Hunte, has pleaded guilty to murder and burglary charges and is expected to testify against the others.

Prosecutors claim Hunte, along with the other four defendants, drove from Fort Myers to rob Taylor’s home in November 2007. Prosecutors say it was during that botched robbery, that one of the suspects shot Taylor in the groin. Taylor died a day later at Jackson Memorial Hospital. His girlfriend and baby daughter, who were in the house at the time of the shooting, were not hurt. Police have said the group did not expect Taylor to be home because the Redskins had a game that weekend, but he was out with an injury.

Taylor was an All-Pro safety with the Redskins who also starred at the University of Miami.

A trial date has not yet been set. The four men each face potential life sentences if convicted. Prosecutors cannot seek the death penalty under U.S. Supreme Court rulings because the alleged triggerman, Rivera, was only 17 when the crime was committed.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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