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Public access appeal sent to Supreme Court

A dispute over public access to evidence in a criminal file must be resolved by the Supreme Court of Virginia, a Court of Appeals panel decided in a split decision.

A newspaper reporter is challenging the decision of a Newport News judge to block access to certain evidence in a criminal case. Two members of a three-judge Court of Appeals panel decided that, because the appeal does not concern the actual criminal conviction, it belongs at the Supreme Court.

Judge Larry G. Elder dissented on that point – he said the Court of Appeals had jurisdiction to consider the case. His opinion goes on to argue that the circuit judge failed to articulate sufficient grounds to deny access to the disputed evidence.

In the underlying case, parents of two children were convicted of second-degree murder in the death of a daughter and felony child neglect of both children.

By Peter Vieth

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