MIAMI (CBS4) – Statements made by a South Florida couple who face first-degree murder charges for the death of their 10-year-old adoptive daughter Nubia will remain sealed, a judge ruled Thursday.
Defense attorneys for Jorge and Carmen Barahona argue that releasing more details about the case that exposed flaws in Florida’s child welfare system could taint a potential jury pool and prevent a fair trial.
“You all are doing your job and you want to get the information out as quickly as possible but, as information is released outside of the courtroom, it’s very one-sided, it’s not complete,” Jorge Barahona’s defense attorney David Peckins said.
On Thursday, Judge Sarah Zabel said that she would review documents that have not been made public and decide on a case by case basis if she would release them.
In her decision, Zabel wrote, “The Defendant’s motions to restrict disclosure of the statement of the Defendants is GRANTED.”
It’s a ruling that many news operations, including CBS4 News and The Miami Herald, had opposed.
“We conduct our trials in the open, and that’s what sets us apart from other countries where there are secret trials and secret hearings and no one ever knows what’s happened,” said Karen Kammer, a media attorney.
Ironically, as Zabel issued her ruling Thursday a fire alarm went off – symbolic, some say, of an alarming trend that keeps the public out of public business.
Zabel said she had considered releasing parts of the statements, but said redacting some statements would render the overall meaning “unintelligible.”
The Barahonas are charged with first-degree murder after Nubia’s chemical-drenched body was found partially decomposed in the back of Jorge’s pickup truck along I-95 in West Palm Beach on February 14, 2011. Nubia’s twin brother Victor survived, but was badly burned after he was doused with a toxic chemical.
Nubia and Victor were adopted by the Barahonas in 2009 after living in their home since 2004. The kids, authorities discovered, had endured starvation, beatings, medical neglect and they had been tied and forced to stay in a bathtub.
The Barahonas have pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
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