JACKSONVILLE, Fla -- Circuit Court Judge Adrian Soud must decide whether to allow the release of what Jacksonville media argues should be public record and important to the coverage of a high-profile case. His decision could make United States history.
Soud sealed records of a police report regarding the alleged attack on a nine-year-old girl in a bathroom at the Southside Boulevard Best Buy last month. A portion of a report included part of an alleged confession from the defendant, James Tadros.
One local television station accidentally released the records, which unleashed debate with some arguing for the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of the press and others arguing for the Sixth Amendment's right to give defendants the right to a speedy and fair trial.
The release of the information has pitted three attorneys for local television stations against the state of Florida and Tadros' attorney, who are arguing the release of information hinders the defendant's right to fair trial. The media attorneys argue the media's free speech rights are being violated. It's unique that the defense attorney for Tadros and prosecuting attorneys for the state of Florida fall on the same side of the issue.
Action News talked to a legal expert who said the Clerk of Court is responsible for redacting, or removing, confidential information, but that didn't happen. Rod Sullivan, a professor at Florida Coastal, also said the release of those records would have had no effect on the trial.
No court, including the United State Supreme Court, has upheld keeping publicly released records, known as "prior restraint." If Soud decides to keep the records sealed, it's likely attorneys representing local media will appeal. Soud said the publication is restricted until a decision about permanent release can be made. The judge said that decision will come in writing no later than the close of business Tuesday.