San Bernardino DA wants more redactions from McStay search warra - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

San Bernardino DA wants more redactions from McStay search warrants

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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (CBS 8) -- San Bernardino prosecutors filed a last-minute response Tuesday seeking to block public release of search warrant evidence in the murders of the McStay family.

CBS News 8 and other news organizations have requested that all 35 search warrants in the case be unsealed as soon as possible.

Evidence already has been presented in a preliminary hearing against defendant Charles Merritt, 58, who could face the death penalty if convicted of the sledgehammer murders of Joseph and Summer Mcstay and their two sons.

On June 24, San Bernardino County Judge Michael A. Smith indicated he planned to unsealed 33 warrants with a few sentences redacted from the probable cause statements. Judge Smith also granted a request by prosecutors to keep two warrants sealed in their entirety.

A hearing was set for Wednesday, July 1 for final approval the redactions but it now appears the release of records could be delayed.

The search warrants contain investigative details from the high-profile case, as well as lists of evidence and private property seized by law enforcement.

Late Tuesday afternoon, San Bernardino District Attorney Michael Ramos filed the response requesting more redactions to 14 of the warrants.

The response said information needed to be kept private “to protect confidential identifying information of subjects” named in the warrants.

The proposed redactions include witness names, phone numbers and vehicle identifying information, as well as 45 sentences contained in the warrants.

Since the search warrants are sealed, it remains unclear what specific information the DA wants to keep secret.

Under California Rules of Court, certain personal identifying information can remain confidential, including social security and bank account numbers.

The DA's motion cites case law and the California constitution as grounds keep additional information private and possibly force another hearing on the matter.

“Here, where disclosure of the warrant materials to include the private, personal information of victims and third parties, their Constitutional privacy rights would be breached without notice, an opportunity to be heard, and without all other due process,” according to the DA's filing.

Merritt's defense attorney has indicated he is not opposed to public release of the warrants, but requested “two or three” sentences be redacted from the probable cause statements because law enforcement “twisted” the evidence.

Prosecutors initially told the court they had no redactions, but wanted two warrants kept entirely sealed because they contained evidence of a Child Protective Services complaint, which was unrelated to the defendant.

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