Adrian agrees to hear media case on unsealing Bliefnick motions, but delays action until May

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QUINCY – Judge Robert Adrian will hear arguments regarding a blanket unsealing of all documents pertaining to the first-degree murder case of Tim Bliefnick.

But those arguments won’t happen before a Thursday court appearance by Bliefnick that is expected to last for most of the day.

Muddy River News, WGEM-TV and The Herald-Whig, represented by attorney Don Craven of Springfield, filed a petition to intervene and to vacate Adrian’s order that gave a blanket sealing of all pleadings in the Bliefnick case and also closing the hearings and the court during the evidentiary phase of the case.

Adrian said both the defense and prosecution agreed to the process and he would unseal motions when the parties agreed to do so.

Assistant State’s Attorney Josh Jones said the people’s position was that the sealing be done on a motion by motion basis.

“I don’t think every motion needs to be sealed from the media,” Jones said. “I understand the media has a job here and they have a right to be present at most hearings, however, in this case, Your Honor, this case we’re looking at a very expedited trial because the people have the first responsibility to make sure that the defendant gets a fair trial and in order to do that certain pieces of evidentiary issues until they’re decided by the court until their first by the jury should not be released to the public.”

Jones said once the jury is selected and the trial begins, all evidence is “fair game”.

Bliefnick’s attorney, Casey Schnack, agreed with the state on that point.

“There aren’t a lot of liberties that Tim has left and the right to a fair and impartial jury is one of those,” Schnack said. “We, the defense, and the people have gone to great lengths to prevent the spoilation of the jury pool before they even walk into the building. That is our first and foremost concern. I agree with Mr. Jones that sealing on a motion by motion a case by case basis would be appropriate and would be best for all. But to have a blanket order that everything is going to be available for public consumption causes us great concern about Tim getting a fair and impartial jury in this matter.”

Bliefnick was in court for the hearing since in pertained to his case, no longer sporting the long hair he had when he was arrested for the February 23 shooting death of his estranged wife, Rebecca.

Adrian said the first available date for him to hold a hearing on the media’s petition to vacate was May 3. Craven then asked to expedite the process because of the subject matter in the hearing on April 20.

“This (hearing) is for appearances of counsel and the court does not have time today to do to have a full hearing,” Adrian said. “The parties weren’t told to be able to brief this issue, et cetera… I understand that. And if the court grants the motion, then all of those motions will be unsealed. You’ll get to see those and you can order transcripts of what happened in the court. But the court cannot hear that today.”

Adrain said the court had “limited time to set matters” because of a shortage of court reporters.

Adrian said the court orders all motions to be sealed when they are filed. Then the courts and the parties can review them to determined what is to be unsealed.

“The blanket order is to seal everything immediately, because that way there’s no mistakes made when that appears that they are not evidentiary base, then they are unsealed,” Adrian said. “That’s been the that’s been the procedure the court has used.”

After the hearing, Craven cited People v. LaGrone, a case he was involved, with where the Illinois Appellate Court reversed a 2005 court decision to close court hearings in a murder case.

The media’s case will be heard by Adrian on May 3.

Tim Bliefnick, right, listens in court Wednesday, sitting with his attorney, Casey Schnack. Attorney Drew Schnack and Assistant State’s Attorney Todd Eyler are in the background./Pool Photo, Matt Hopf, The Herald-Whig

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