Reporter appeals order sealing records of her testimony


CONNECTICUT–A Hartford Courant reporter, subpoenaed by a criminal defendant to reveal a confidential source, in late March appealed a judge’s order to close the courtroom for a hearing on the defendant’s motion to dismiss the charges against him.

After accused rapist Alex Kelly’s first trial in November 1996 ended in a hung jury, Lynne Tuohy reported that the prosecution had three witnesses who claimed that Kelly had also raped them and were prepared to testify against Kelly if he had taken the stand. Kelly’s lawyers have subpoenaed Tuohy, the prosecutors and one of the victims’ attorneys to testify in the state Superior Court in Stamford in order to track down the source of Tuohy’s information.

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Kelly’s attorneys, alleging prosecutorial misconduct and stating that press leaks have jeopardized the possibility of a fair trial, have moved to dismiss the charges. The judge ordered the courtroom closed and the record sealed for the dismissal hearing in order to assure an untainted jury pool and a trial as free from the influence of adverse publicity as possible.

Tuohy and other media groups have appealed this decision and the appellate court will hold a hearing in early April. Tuohy says she expects an expedited decision since jury selection is scheduled to start in mid-April. The closure order has been stayed until the appellate ruling and Tuohy is excused from testifying until then.

Kelly, who is being tried for multiple rape charges, fled the country days before he was originally scheduled to stand trial in February 1987. He was featured four times on the “America’s Most Wanted” television show and was extradited from Switzerland in May 1995 after the Connecticut Fugitive Task Force found letters, records and photographs showing that Kelly’s parents not only knew of his whereabouts but were supporting him financially. Kelly’s parents have not been charged. (Connecticut v. Alex Kelly; Media Counsel: Ralph Elliot, Hartford)