Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Ind. Law - "Wilk successfully petitions court to seal case records under new state law"
Madeline Buckley reported Monday in the South Bend Tribune:
A judge today sealed the records in a highly publicized child neglect case during which the mother of two young boys stood trial twice in connection with their deaths.
The petition to seal the records fell under a new state law that allows arrest records to be sealed if the arrest doesn't result in a conviction.
The law, which took effect this July, also allows for the expungement of certain felony convictions.
A grand jury indicted Jacqueline Wilk, 25, in May 2012 on two counts of neglect of a dependent, Class A felonies, in the deaths of Isaac Dunner, 2, and Dominick Wilk, 4.
But Wilk stood trial twice, and both times, the jury hung, which yielded two mistrials.
While playing a game, the boys locked themselves in the trunk of Wilk's car and died of overheating in June 2011.
The state dismissed the charges this June, more than a year after police arrested Wilk and two years after the boys died.
Under the statute, a judge must seal an arrest record if it did not yield a conviction, a year has passed since the arrest and the individual has no pending criminal charges.
With these criteria undisputed, St. Joseph Superior Court Judge John Marnocha sealed the case record, adding that he does not have discretion to do otherwise.
The law does not allow the judge to consider any other circumstances under this part of the legislation.
Wilk’s petition was an early application of a new law that has wrought some confusion throughout the state, as individuals rushed to go before judges seeking to sanitize their pasts while officials tried to work through the complicated legislation, which has several tiers of criteria for when a judge can and must seal or expunge records.
“I will say, this is somewhat of an odd situation,” Marnocha commented during the proceeding, noting that local media vigorously covered both trials as well as many pre-trial events.
A Google search turns up news reports that detail nearly every aspect of the case.
The judge also pointed out the irony of sealing records at a public hearing attended by members of the media and that portions of the new legislation seem to be at odds with Indiana public access laws.
“But I’m not a legislator. I’m a judge,” Marnocha said.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 17, 2013 02:39 PM
Posted to Indiana Law