Jacksonville Criminal Attorneys for man accused of slashing football fan's throat look to have court records sealed

February 6, 2013

Duval County Criminal Lawyers for the man accused of slashing another man's throat with a pocketknife outside a downtown Jacksonville bar are asking for records in his case to be sealed until trial. Matthew Hinson is accused of walking up behind William "Chris" Pettry, slitting his throat and walking away, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Pettry was visiting from Illinois to watch the Chicago Bears play the Jacksonville Jaguars the next day. Various media reports have had different stories on what led Hinson to kill Pettry since the October stabbing, but most have focused on Pettry talking to a group of women that included Hinson's wife.

And that illustrates the point of the Jacksonville defense attorneys asking for the records to be sealed in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes case. Attorneys are requesting the judge seal crime scene photos, names of witnesses, 911 calls, surveillance video and all statements Hinson made to police, the newspaper reported. The case has been subject of numerous news reports - in the papers, on television and online - and this is partly a play to help end those stories and ensure there are enough people unfamiliar with the case to be able to field a fair and impartial jury. Strategy with documents and pre-trial publicity is an interesting cat-and-mouse game between the state and the defense in many instances and this Jacksonville Violent Crimes case is bringing that interplay to the forefront.

In some cases, it's the state that is asking to limit disclosure and may even ask for the judge to impose a gag order in the case if prosecutors feel defense attorneys are talking too much or leaking information in the case. Often, motions such as this end up being fought by the local media. True to form, two television stations have filed court documents to keep the records open, the newspaper reported. In the Florida court system, once discovery is filed with the court, it becomes public record and can be viewed or accessed by anyone. That differs from federal court rules, which require prosecutors to share discovery with the defense and the defense only.

The judge ruled she would not seal all of the records in Hinson's Jacksonville criminal case, but would allow a five-day period so the defense could review the documents and then make individual arguments about individual pieces of evidence being sealed, the newspaper reported. A neutral and untainted jury pool is crucial for anyone, but especially when the stakes are this high in a case that has and will continue to get plenty of media attention. Hinson is charged with second-degree murder and faces up to life in prison if he's convicted.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Duval County Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.