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New Judge Retains Gag Order on Evidence in Klaas Murder Case

February 07, 1996| From Associated Press

SAN JOSE — The trial of the man accused of killing 12-year-old Polly Klaas took a big step forward Tuesday as the new judge in the case decided to adopt preliminary rulings made by his predecessor, including a gag order that prohibits participants from talking about evidence.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Thomas Hastings said there was no need to redo the work of Sonoma County Judge Lawrence Antolini.

"It would serve no purpose . . . to re-litigate what has already been decided," he said.

The trial was moved to San Jose from Sonoma County after Antolini conceded that it would be impossible to get an impartial jury pool in the county where the crime took place.

Richard Allen Davis, 41, is charged with kidnapping Polly from her bedroom in Petaluma during a slumber party Oct. 1, 1993, strangling her and dumping her body beside a highway. She was missing for two months, prompting a nationwide search that drew international headlines. Davis told authorities where to find the body.

Hastings' decision speeds up the process of bringing Davis to trial. He has said jury selection could begin next week.

Most of the adopted rulings were made in closed hearings and subsequently sealed. Hastings planned more closed hearings to discuss them with attorneys.

Attorneys representing various news organizations were to argue Tuesday afternoon in favor of opening those hearings.

The judicial lid on the Davis trial clamped down tighter Tuesday when Hastings upheld a gag order that prohibits parties in the case from talking about the evidence.

"This trial is not a sound stage for the press," Hastings said, delivering a long discourse on his concerns that news coverage could pollute the pool of prospective jurors.

On Monday, Hastings upheld a ban on cameras in the courtroom for much the same reason.

One potential obstacle remains: a change of venue request filed by defense attorneys. Assistant Public Defender Barry Collins filed the motion Friday out of concern that attorneys will run into the same juror problems here as in Sonoma County, about 100 miles to the north.

Collins said Monday that the judge could take up the matter after jury selection begins.

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