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DeFede: Cat Killer Case Remains Sealed - For Now

Animals  (tags: Judge, sealed cocument, Weinman, cats, Miami, CBS4killed )

- 3252 days ago -
About two hours into a hearing on whether the arrest affidavit against accused serial cat killer Tyler Weinman should be released to the public, I turned to a prosecutor sitting in the back of the courtroom and said: "This is still about dead cats

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Raffi L (301)
Thursday June 25, 2009, 1:32 pm
The story-
DeFede: Cat Killer Case Remains Sealed - For Now

MIAMI-About two hours into a hearing on whether the arrest affidavit against accused serial cat killer Tyler Weinman should be released to the public, I turned to a prosecutor sitting in the back of the courtroom and said: "This is still about dead cats, right?"

The prosecutor who wasn't involved in the case smiled, shrugged, and walked away.

My question was largely rhetorical, anyway. A bit of a reality check to make sure I hadn't stumbled into the wrong courtroom. Given the way prosecutors were fighting to keep the affidavit secret, you might think this case involved national security or that human lives were at stake if the information was revealed. (They're not, by the way.)

The Miami Herald and CBS4 News asked for Wednesday's hearing because we believe the law requires criminal cases to be prosecuted in the light of day. We believe there is something fundamentally wrong with sealing criminal court files which is exactly what has been done in this case. The entire file is sealed. Even the motion to seal the file is sealed.

Nearly two weeks after Tyler Weinman was arrested we still do not have official word on why police and prosecutors believe the 18-year-old is the person responsible for killing and mutilating nineteen cats. Now some information has leaked out. Relying on our sources, CBS4 News has reported at length about what is believed to be in the affidavit. And it appears the case against Weinman is entirely circumstantial.

For instance, police found scratch marks on Weinman consistent with the marks a cat might make as it struggled to get away from someone holding it. Prosecutors noted Weinman had taken an anatomy class at Palmetto High School in which he learned about dissecting cats. And that his movements in part based on an electronic tracking device placed on his car were consistent with the times and locations of where dead cats were later found.

We also reported police found knives and cutting tools in Weinman's bedroom and they are waiting for lab tests including DNA to see of the knives or other items contain blood that can be matched to any of the dead cats.

Police and prosecutors have not denied any of the information contained in our reports. So why fight the release of the affidavit?

Two issues are at work. First, if the affidavit only contains the circumstantial evidence outlined by CBS4 News, then there will inevitably be questions about whether prosecutors have enough to win a conviction against Weinman. Did the police rush to make an arrest because of political pressure? Why didn't they wait for lab tests to come back before making an arrest?

The second reason is also something we previously reported: Police are investigating two other teens they believe helped Weinman catch and kill the cats. Prosecutors argue releasing the affidavit will hurt their investigation of the other teens.

How will it hurt? They won't say. But again it raises the question of whether the police and prosecutors moved too soon.

Short of compelling DNA evidence, the state's best shot at convicting Weinman is pressuring one of his suspected accomplices to testify against him. Prosecutors may be afraid that if the affidavit is released and attorneys for the other kids realize how weak the prosecution's case is, they won't feel the need to make a deal.

In response to the media's request for the affidavit, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge John Thornton met behind closed doors Wednesday afternoon with Assistant State Attorney Michael Von Zamft, criminal defense attorney David Macey, and Herald/CBS4 attorney Scott Ponce.

Following the nearly three hour meeting, prosecutors agreed to release the entire affidavit on July 6, the day Weinman is scheduled to be formally arraigned on the charges against him. The judge made clear he would not allow any extensions of that date and that the entire document would be made public at 9 a.m.

In essence, Judge Thornton gave police and prosecutors the next two weeks to investigate and either arrest the other teens involved or make deals with them to testify against Weinman.

And so we wait until July 6 for some measure of normalcy to return to this court case. Or at least as close to normalcy as we can get in a case that grows stranger all the time.

And oh, by the way, the transcript of the nearly three hour hearing involving the judge, the prosecutor, the defense attorney, and the attorney for CBS4 and The Miami Herald in which the media argued for transparency in the court process well, that transcript was also sealed.

Jamie L (195)
Thursday June 25, 2009, 1:35 pm
hmmmm... I await the July 6th release.... Thanks Raffi!

Leigh B (211)
Thursday June 25, 2009, 2:33 pm
Open the records for all to see the horrors this man did. Another Jeffry Dahmer going on here and he must be locked up for a long time!, thanks Raffi

Mandi T (375)
Friday June 26, 2009, 12:30 am
Let's open it up and see the horrors.
Tx Raffi

. (0)
Saturday June 27, 2009, 12:35 pm
Those scratch marks are evidence enough to lock that insane basterd up for the rest of his life. If I was an investigator,it wouldn,t take me so long to realize that he,s guilty and responsible for those catkillings. To jail with this jerk.

LaJana P (97)
Monday June 29, 2009, 3:47 pm
They are only afraid to open the records because once the true horror of what he did gets out there for the whole world to see they are afraid that they will have to put him in jail for the rest of his life in order to protect him from all the animal lovers of the world.

. (0)
Wednesday July 1, 2009, 6:34 am
This abusive bas.... needs to face the firing squad... he needs to pay for what he has sown... sherbet why delay the whole thing... yes agreed LaJana let him face the wrath of the animal lovers out there... he'll be mince meat for all the cats.

Sally D (91)
Thursday July 2, 2009, 12:46 am
I was devastated at what this boy is alleged to have done when I read the story and commented on the serial killing of so many cats. However, I was still of the opinion that he is innocent until proven guilty. I am now swaying heavily towards a guilty verdict with what I have read in the attached report. Unfortunately, until they have concrete evidence (which hopefully they will get with DNA), he will probably get off with a technicality. I seriously hope they proove his guilt and remove him from society lock him up for good.
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