Members of the media will be allowed at the preliminary hearing of two murder defendants charged with killing a Canadian tourist in Golden Gate Park in 2015, a Marin County judge ruled Monday.
The high-profile murder case involves a trio of drifters who were arrested in Oregon in October 2015 after allegedly killing a woman in San Francisco and then a hiker in Marin.
From the onset, defense attorneys have tried to mitigate the impact of negative media converge. But on Monday, Marin County Superior Court Judge Kelly Vieira Simmons denied a motion by defense lawyers seeking to bar press members from the preliminary hearing of Morrison Haze Lampley, 23, and Lila Scott Alligood, 18, both of whom appeared in court Monday.
Alligood and Lampley were much transformed since their initial arrest an appearance.
Both had long curly, washed hair — a stark contrast to their earlier appearance. Lampley initially had a shaven head, which allowed his neck tattoo to be visible. Alligold’s blond hair had appeared matted and dreaded.
Sean Michael Angold, 24, their former co-defendant, pleaded guilty earlier this year to the murder of 67-year-old Steve Carter, who was found dead on a hiking trail in Fairfax in Marin County several days after the first killing in Golden Gate Park. Angold is expected to be a prosecutorial witness in the case.
The other victim, Audrey Carey, 23, was found dead Oct. 3 in Gold Gate Park.
While Simmons did not grant the defense’s motion, she did limit court access during the early stages in the process that will begin Sept. 20. Still cameras will only be allowed in the courtroom on the first day of the preliminary hearing, and studio and video recording devices will only be allowed for the first 15 minutes.
“Nobody really likes the media, and it is disruptive,” Simmons said. “It’s nerve-wracking. On the other hand, they have a right to be here.”
Objection to the ruling came from deputy public defender David Brown, who said his client, Lampley, had a constitutional right to an unbiased jury. Continued media coverage, he argued, could prejudice the public against his client.
Simmons disagreed. “I don’t think anyone’s due process rights will be impacted by the open process,” she said.
Brown expressed concern about a statement by Alligood that was taken before her booking that could possibly implicate his client. He argued that if the statement wasn’t to be used during trial, it shouldn’t be used at a time when the media could publicize it.
Brown also argued that some witnesses may not have identified the defendants and that they could be confused by the media.
Duffy Carolan, a lawyer representing the Marin Independent Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle, argued that the case did not present any extraordinary situation warranting such request.
“The public has a right to observe the process,” Carolan said after the ruling, which she called a “victory.”