Court Records Sealed in Amber Alert Smothering Case

Court records have been sealed in a homicide case against an Indiana mother accused of smothering her two children.

Public defenders Clifford Williams and Peter Soldato requested the case's records be sealed, saying many of the Child Protective Services records released last month should've remained private. Elkhart County Prosecutor Vicki Becker agreed.

Circuit Judge Michael Christofeno ordered all records in the case sealed pending an April 25 hearing on whether the case should be made public again.

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Attorneys say Amber Pasztor's chances of receiving a fair trial have been jeopardized by sensitive information released publicly and subsequent media attention.

Pasztor faces two counts of murder in the Sept. 26 killings of 7-year-old Liliana Hernandez and 6-year-old Rene Pasztor. The children were killed after being abducted from their custodial grandparents' home.

Steve Key, executive director and general counsel for the Hoosier State Press Association, said multiple media outlets have expressed concern about basic information not being available.

"The fact that you can't look at it electronically is a problem," Key said. "No citizen can learn what's going on."

Key said a strong argument for releasing the documents is the fact the files were already public and widely reported on.

"The whole system is set up so the defendant has a fair trial, but there are ways to do that without sealing all the information," he said.

Key was part of a committee organized by Chief Justice Loretta Rush to develop guidelines for what court records should be accessible electronically.

"The position of the chief justice was to put everything that makes sense online," Key said. "The idea was taking advantage of the electronic system to make more information available to the public."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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