State v. Loukaitis

918 P. 2d 535 (1996)

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State v. Loukaitis

Washington Court of Appeal
918 P. 2d 535 (1996)

Facts

Shortly before Barry D. Loukaitis (defendant) turned 15, he shot and killed his teacher and two classmates and severely wounded a third classmate. The state (plaintiff) charged Loukaitis with three counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of first-degree assault. Washington state law permitted juveniles to be tried as adults in criminal court in certain circumstances. Under those circumstances, the juvenile court was required to hold declination proceedings to determine whether to retain or decline jurisdiction. If the juvenile court declined jurisdiction, prosecution could proceed in criminal court. Juvenile-court jurisdiction ended when the juvenile turned 21 years of age, and a juvenile tried as an adult in criminal court could be sentenced to a maximum of life imprisonment without parole. A declination hearing began in Loukaitis’s matter. Loukaitis called a psychiatrist to testify in support of the juvenile court’s retention of jurisdiction. Before the psychiatrist began her testimony concerning her examination of Loukaitis and her opinion concerning his mental health, Loukaitis moved the court to close the proceedings, preventing public access to the psychiatrist’s testimony. Loukaitis argued that there were several reasons for closing the proceedings, including his right to a fair trial. The state, the press, and members of the public objected, arguing that the public First Amendment right to access outweighed Loukaitis’s interests in closing the proceedings. The court granted Loukaitis’s motion for closure without making specific findings of fact as to how Loukaitis’s right to a fair trial would be prejudiced by an open hearing. The state, along with a news publisher, sought discretionary appellate-court review, and the Washington Court of Appeal accepted.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Sweeney, C.J.)

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