North Texas media file plea for access to juvenile court proceedings

Judge Jean Boyd

Credit: WFAA

Tarrant County juvenile court Judge Jean Boyd has come under fire since sentencing 16-year-old Ethan Couch to 10 years' probation for a drunk driving crash that left four people dead.

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WFAA

Posted on January 29, 2014 at 6:03 PM

Six major media outlets in Dallas-Fort Worth joined together Wednesday to file a plea in intervention in State Judge Jean Boyd’s Tarrant County juvenile court to ask that any hearings regarding Ethan Couch be held in open court, and that they be given a chance to be heard if the judge considers any motions to close a hearing to the public or makes a decision to do that on her own.

Boyd made national news recently for sentencing Couch, 16, to 10 years' probation and therapy for driving drunk and causing a crash that left four people dead.

After the uproar, in another murder trial involving a teenager, the judge barred everyone not directly connected with the case from her courtroom on two different occasions.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Dallas Morning News, KDFW/Channel 4, KXAS/Channel 5, WFAA/Channel 8 and KTVT/Channel 11 jointly filed a motion in Boyd’s court requesting that if the judge contemplates closing future hearings regarding the Couch case they be given reasonable notice of any closure motion so their arguments to keep the hearing open can be heard.

Boyd gave no reason when she closed the court in the subsequent murder trial hearing, so the plea in intervention also requested the court "decline any closure motion absent a showing of good cause articulated along with findings specific enough that a reviewing court can determine whether the closure order was properly entered."

According to the Texas Family Code, if a juvenile appearing in court is under 14 at the time of the proceeding, the judge has to close the hearing unless it is determined that the interests of the child and the public would be better served by allowing an open hearing. If the defendant is older, as in the Couch case, the law states that a juvenile court hearing should be open to the public "unless the court, for good cause shown, determines that the public should be excluded."

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