FAIRFIELD — The Fairifeld man accused of kidnapping, raping and killing a 13-year-old girl was in court Wednesday morning for the first time in months.
Anthony L. Jones, flanked by a pair of attorneys from the Public Defender’s Office, said nothing during the hearing, which ended with postponing any action in the case until September.
Judge E. Bradley Nelson put off scheduling a probable cause hearing until the September hearing, saying he may set the hearing in February 2014, more than a year after the nude body of Genella Conway-Allen was discovered dumped in Allan Witt Park on the morning of Feb. 1.
Nelson also took no action on requests by Jones’ attorneys to bar the public and the media from all future court hearings including the jury trial, and to seal all records in the case from public review. The defense team also is seeking a court order barring all media from showing Jones’ photograph.
“The media must be precluded from releasing prejudicial information to the public and thereby denying Mr. Jones his right to a fair trial,” defense attorneys stated in their request to move the entire case behind closed doors. The defense team has described media coverage of the case as “pervasive,” “massive,” that has perpetuated “a bitter divide among racial lines” in the community.
Nelson asked an attorney for The Sacramento Bee and The Reporter in Vacaville, and a reporter for the Daily Republic, to return to court Sept. 27 for a hearing on the effort to conduct the case behind closed doors. One of Jones’ attorneys, Deputy Public Defender John Mendenhall, said he expected the hearing could take several hours.
Nelson seemed skeptical at times at the effort to shroud in complete secrecy the criminal proceedings and court records. When Mendenhall said he wanted all court records in the case sealed, Nelson’s response was, “You might have an uphill battle on that one.”
Prosecutor Terry Ray repeated that her office had not made any decisions about whether to pursue the death penalty for Jones. Mendenhall alluded briefly to an interest in making a plea deal with prosecutors before a probable cause hearing.
Ray also said her office would not take a stand one way or the other on the request to bar the public and the media from all court proceedings. Nelson suggested to Ray that she reconsider her neutrality.
Media attorney Jeff Glasser told Nelson that the defense team effort was nearly unprecedented and was contrary to decades of case law on the public’s right to attend court hearings and to review court records.
Earlier in the week, Glasser submitted a written opposition to the defense team request. He described the request to have Nelson order the media to not publish photographs, commonly referred to as prior restraint, as “the most serious and least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights.”
The defense team disagrees with Glasser, saying in their own court filing, “The defense contends closing the trial to the media and the public will best serve to prevent prejudice to the defendant’s right to a fair trial and due process.”
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.