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Judge issues decorum rules for Jessica Kelley’s trial

Jessica Kelley enters court for a hearing in September. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In an attempt to ensure an “orderly disposition,” a state District Court judge has issued a decorum order putting media and members of the public on notice that special rules are in effect as Jessica Kelley faces trial in the death of 10-year-old Victoria Martens.

In his Dec. 12 order, Judge Charles Brown writes that violators could be permanently excluded from the proceedings or forced to pay for a retrial.

According to the order:

• Reporters must obtain credentials from court administration.

• Interviews cannot take place within the courthouse until the trial concludes.

• Jurors cannot be approached or photographed.

• The front row of benches will be vacant and there is no designated media seating.

• Electronic devices, including computers, cameras, cellphones, recorders and tablets, are not permitted in the courtroom, but will be allowed in a designated media room.

The judge left open the possibility of changes in his order, noting “or as may be permitted by any ruling on media coverage.”

Judge Alisa Hart issued a similar order ahead of the 2016 trial for police officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez in the death of James Boyd. After local media filed a motion, a second order was issued with some modifications.

Greg Williams, attorney for the Journal and a past president of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, said Thursday that he hopes Brown’s order can be amended slightly to “make sure the public’s interest is accommodated in this case.” More specifically, he would like to make sure the media can use electronic devices in order to “fairly report on what happens in the courtroom.”

“We appreciate the judge trying to find a balance between conducting a fair trial, and allowing the media and the public access to this important case,” Williams said. “In the case involving officers Sandy and Perez, which was also a high-profile case, the judge was able to strike that balance and still allowed nearly full media access to the courtroom.”

Kelley is set for trial Jan. 7.

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