Ohio judge weighs whether to keep rape trial open

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WITHDRAWS MOTION–Defense attorney Walter Madison, who represents one of two Ohio high school football players charged with raping a 16-year-old girl, makes a point during a hearing Jan. 25, in Steubenville, Ohio. (AP Photo/Herald Star, Mark Law)

 

by Andrew Welsh-Huggins

AP Legal Affairs Writer

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (AP) — A battle over closing the trial of two Ohio high school football players charged with raping a 16-year-old girl appeared to end Friday as an attorney withdrew his motion, saying that moving the trial would suffice to protect his client.

Defense attorney Walter Madison previously raised concerns that an open trial could lead to potential witnesses on his client’s behalf being intimidated following intense publicity and social media commentary about the case. Madison said after the hearing that he believes the related motion to move the trial out of Jefferson County to reduce the possibility of witness intimidation or harassment would address his concerns.

“My concern, and that being that witnesses are comfortable and willing to participate in this process,” he said.

An attorney for the girl said he’d be willing to file a similar motion for closing the trial, and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office reiterated its support for the closure. But no formal motion was presented.

In arguing to move the trial, Madison said two potential witnesses on behalf of his client, Ma’Lik Richmond, had recently received threats.

Despite Madison’s last-minute change, attorneys for media outlets including The Associated Press presented arguments supporting an open trial to ensure public confidence in the proceedings.

Judge Thomas Lipps said he’d consider their statements. Lipps, who previously rejected a request to try the two players separately, plans to rule next week on motions to move the trial and delay it.

The state opposes all of those motions.

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