Search Warrants Sealed for Now

Search warrants in connection with the rape and murder of Poway teenager Chelsea King will stay sealed until Monday, a judge ruled Thursday.

John Albert Gardner III will be sentenced for the murders of 17-year-old Chelsea King and 14-year-old Amber Dubois on June 1 after accepting a plea agreement that removed the possibility of a death sentence for the crimes.

NBC San Diego and other media outlets have filed documents requesting the San Diego County Superior Court lift a gag order barring authorities from discussing the evidence and release records related to search warrants.

In a hearing Thursday, Judge Peter Deddeh heard arguments from attorneys representing the media as well as prosecutors, the Kings' attorneys and lawyers representing the parents of Amber Dubois.

Chelsea's parents, Brent and Kelly King, want the records sealed to preserve their daughter's dignity. They've hired attorney Pat Swan to argue for suppression of certain documents under victims' rights statutes.

Amber's father Moe Dubois, who attended the hearing and spoke outside court, said he doesn't think it's necessary to release any more information about the case.

John Gardner's attorney argued the information should remain sealed until his client's sentencing June 1.

"We feel that it is never a good precedent for the government in any capacity to withhold what is by law supposed to be public information," said NBC 7/39 Vice President of News Greg Dawson explaining the station's decision to file the request to unseal the court records. "Therefore we challenge these rulings on a consistent basis. We are also arguing against efforts to keep parts of John Gardner's case file sealed and a gag order in place for law enforcement - despite the fact he has pleaded guilty."

The district attorney's office submitted suggestions for what Judge Deddeh should remove or block out in the search warrants before releasing them.

Those elements could include graphic information that could be sensitive to the Kings. They could include photos of the crime scene or even information on a confidential informant who may have led detectives to John Gardner.

No one knows the content of the warrants that the district attorney's office is requesting remain sealed.

"The medical examiner's report contains a great deal of information about how the investigation was handled. That information might be of public interest. Then again, there might be nothing worthy of reporting. But we won't know if it remains sealed," said Dawson.

The judge told the five legal teams that he did not want to wait until Gardner's sentencing in June and preferred to announce his decision Friday but will wait until defense attorneys are present Monday.

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