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[UPDATE] Gary Michael Hilton Trial

By: Julie Montanaro, Lanetra Bennett Email
By: Julie Montanaro, Lanetra Bennett Email

Updated 12-12 6:15pm

Accused Gary Michael Hilton was back in court Friday.

It was a hearing to decide what should and shouldn't be public in the high-profile case.

The public defender for Gary Michael Hilton filed a motion to exclude the public from all hearings leading up to his January 31st trial.

But, at the beginning of the hearing to discuss that motion Friday, Ines Suber said that she only meant hearings dealing with evidence, not all hearings.

The hearing ended up being a fight for 13 sealed motions to remain sealed.

Hilton is accused of killing Crawfordville Sunday School teacher Cheryl Dunlap.

Suber says printed public comments on news stories will make it impossible to pick a fair jury.

Suber said, "The comments call him evil, serial killer, a dirty old man that deserves to be sent to Apalachicola and be beheaded."

Attorneys representing media were fighting to have the motions public.

Friday, Judge James Hankinson unsealed ten of the 13 sealed motions.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed." Suber said.

Suber disagreed that information should be public, pointing out to the court that there were 159,572 online page views about Hilton evidence; and with only 141,526 available potential jurors in Leon County, she says almost everyone knows about Hilton.

The media representatives disagree on the impact.

WCTV's attorney Kevin Cox, said, "Public access to judicial proceeding is very important. While sometimes limitations may be needed to preserve an impartial jury, those should be very narrowly done There should be no blanket protections against the public's access."

The prosecution did not object to the motions being sealed.

The judge says that the motions that remained sealed deal with audio and video pertaining to Hilton, as well as the medical examiner's opinion.

Judge Hankinson says that he did not find it appropriate to have those items public.

In essence, the judge told Suber that she was the one that keeps attracting the media coverage by all of the motions and requests that she keeps bringing before the court. Judge Hankinson said that many ot the issues can be settled during the trial.

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[UPDATE} 12-10 4:00PM --

Gary Hilton's attorney, Ines Suber, had requested to have all proceedings closed to the public, but attorneys for media outlets claimed Suber was over-reaching and her request was drastic.

13 motions had been sealed in the case, but Judge James Hankinson has ruled to unseal 10 of those motions.

Stay with WCTV for the latest developments in this case.

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[UPDATE] 12-10 2:50PM --

Attorneys for the Tallahassee Democrat and WCTV say Hilton's attorney is over-reaching and her request is drastic. They say there's no need to close hearings because publicity of case has cooled down. Hilton's attorney, Ines Suber, had a witness on stand for more than an hour; an investigator for public defender's office. Suber used him to point out the thousands of stories and comments posted on Hilton. She's now telling the judge why some motions should be sealed.

Stay with WCTV for updates

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[UPDATE] 12-10 11:30AM --

Gary Michael Hilton's attorney wants to close all proceedings to the public.

The attorney says the man charged with killing a local Sunday School teacher and FSU nurse has gotten too much publicity in our area.

There is a hearing today, Dec. 10 to discuss the matter.

Gary Michael Hilton is accused of killing Crawfordville Sunday School teacher Cheyrl Dunlap back in 2007.

His trial date is January 31, but his public defender says any hearing they have before then should not be public. A previous issue was whether Hilton should be transported to Gainesville or stay here for medical tests.

In that last hearing, the judge ordered the prosecution, defense and a representative from the sheriff's office to get together and review options, and come back with a plan.

If Hilton's attorney has her way, Eyewitness News nor any other media will be allowed to be there when that plan is presented.

Hilton's attorney is expected to lay out evidence of why she believes this case has gotten too much publicity over the past couple of years.

WCTV has an attorney fighting this who will be inside the courtroom today.

It's expected that if the judge allows the hearings to remain public. Hilton's attorney will request a change of venue for the trial.

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UPDATED 12.2.2010 by Julie Montanaro

A fight over whether accused killer Gary Hilton should be allowed to travel to undergo some medical screenings has apparently been settled.

Hilton's attorneys had requested that he be transported to Gainesville for some mental health tests, but prosecutors vociferously objected. They argued the same tests could be done in Tallahassee, without the security risk that a 150 mile trip would create.

A hearing scheduled for this morning was cancelled. Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman says she, the defense attorneys and the sheriff's office were able to work out an agreement.

Neither Cappleman, nor defense attorney Ines Suber, would divulge the terms of that deal.

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UPDATED 11.19.2010 9:45 am by JULIE Montanaro

LCSO LT Tim Baxter is one of the deputies who transported Hilton from Georgia to Tallahassee back in 2008. He testified that three deputies rode in the car with Hilton that day and there was another patrol car in front of them and two more behind them.

He testified that the route and one rest break were planned in advance. He testified that Hilton wore handcuffs, leg chains and a belly chain during the ride and that Hilton made no threats and no attempt to escape.

The sergeant who supervises Hilton's cell at the jail called him a model inmate but testified that he is on confinement status, which is reserved for high risk status. That means he is in a cell alone and is allowed out for just one hour a day. He testified that Hilton is checked every 30 minutes and spends his day sleeping and reading.

Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman contends transporting Hilton would be" a great expense and a great burden" and remains a risk to the public.

The judge ordered the prosecutor, defense attorney and a representative from the LCSO to evaluate the options and come up with a plan to transport Hilton for this testing. The judge said the plan should be ready the week after Thanksgiving.

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UPDATED 11.19.2010 9:10 am by JULIE Montanaro

Attorneys for WCTV and the Tallahassee Democrat are in court this morning arguing that a hearing regarding the upcoming transport and testing of accused killer Gary Michael Hilton not be held behind closed doors.

Hilton's attorneys want to take him to Gainesville for medical tests in advance of his upcoming trial.

Judge James Hankinson ruled the location of the testing should be made public but the date and time will remain sealed.

Attorneys are now arguing over whether Hilton should be transported or whether those tests can be done closer to home.

Hilton's attorney says she has contacted many medical facilities in Florida and there is no closer medical facility that can accommodate him for these tests.

Stay with WCTV.tv for updates.

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UPDATED 11.10.2010 6:35pm by Julie Montanaro

Accused killer Gary Michael Hilton is once again at the center of some courtroom controversy.

Hilton - who is accused of kidnapping and killing Cheryl Dunlap in 2007 - is scheduled to undergo some mental health tests down in Gainesville and that request is raising eyebrows.

The state attorney questions the necessity of the trip and the security concerns it raises.

Gary Michael Hilton is scheduled to stand trial in January. His attorneys now want the judge to grant permission for Hilton to be transported to Gainesville for some tests saying they must explore all the possibilities as the ready for trial.

"I think we're entitled to prepare our defense and present everything possible in his defense and this is part of what we do," said defense attorney Ines Suber.

Yet state attorney Willie Meggs questions whether those same tests can be performed in Tallahassee. He also has the sheriff and members of the swat team ready to testify about the security risks that kind of road trip would pose.

"We don't object to him being tested,"we're just trying to get the court fully informed as to the issues pertaining to the transport of an inmate."

Defense attorney Ines Suber points out that Coy Evans, who was ultimately convicted of killing a Tallahassee Police Officer, was transported to Jacksonville without any hulabaloo or any trouble.

"I think it's an argument just because it is Mr. Hilton, which is kind of getting me concerned that he is being treated differently," Suber said after the hearing.

"Her contention is that you're treating him differently,"we said to the sheriff.

"Well yes, he's an extremely dangerous man. He's the most dangerous man in the Leon County Jail. I'm going to treat him very carefully."

The defense asked that the hearing be closed to the press given the mental health aspects of this. The judge didn't do that, instead he said he would schedule arguments on the transport issue next week to give the press time to make any objections to a closed door proceeding.

So we may have a decision on this doctor visit next week.

Defense attorney Ines Suber declined to say whether Hilton has already undergone any psychiatric tests. Court records do not show any evaluation orders, but keep in mind, the bulk of documents and evidence in this case are sealed and off limits to the public. That was done to try to ensure Hilton get a fair trial.

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Updated 11-10 10:00am --

Defense attorneys want to transport accused killer Gary Michael Hilton to Gainesville for some mental health tests, saying it is an important part of his defense.

State Attorney Willie Meggs says he is concerned about the security issues that transporting Hilton would raise and is not convinced the test couldn't be done in Tallahassee.

The defense asked that the hearing be closed to the press so they could discuss those sensitive issues, but the judge said he would have to set a date next week to give the press ample time to make any objections.

The sheriff and members of the SWAT team were in court and prepared to testify, but that testimony will have to wait until next week.

Defense attorney Ines Suber says LCSO transports prisoners all the time and transported accused killer Coy Evans to Jacksonville prior to his trial without any problems.

The judge also denied the defense's request that the state tailor its list of more than 600 witnesses, despite the defense's contention that it will not have time to interview all those witnesses in advance of Hilton's January trial date.

Hilton is accused of kidnapping and killing Crawfordville Sunday school teacher and FSU nurse Cheryl Dunlap in December 2007.

Stay with WCTV for details as the trial continues.

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Updated 10-22 6:52pm

The trial date stands for the man charged with killing Crawfordville Sunday School teacher Cheryl Dunlap.

A judge denied a request to delay Gary Michael Hilton's trial during a hearing on Friday morning.

The attorney for Gary Michael Hilton was asking for an additional three months. She wanted the trial pushed back from January 31st to April of 2011.

That request was denied.

Gary Michael Hilton is accused of kidnapping and killing FSU Nurse and Crawfordville Sunday School teacher Cheryl Dunlap in December 2007.

In the hearing, Hilton's attorney told the judge that she needed more time to prepare for trial.

Attorney Ines Suber says she's not surprised, but, disappointed that a seasoned judge denied her request.

Suber said, "He knows the importance of allowing enough time for the lawyers to prepare. His decision is I have had enough time. I disagree respectfully with him."

Circuit Court Judge James Hankinson told the court that he believed a three-year murder case was plenty of time, and left the trial date for January 31st.

Suber says the reason she needed more time is because there are 632 witnesses that she can't all get to.

She says the prosecution has not given her all necessary documentation, and says that she will not be ready, or efficient for a trial in January.

Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman says she fulfilled her obligations in regards to turning over documents.

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[UPDATE] 10-22 12:00PM --

A judge denied a request to delay Gary Michael Hilton's trial just hours ago.

The attorney for Gary Michael Hilton was asking for an additional three months. She wanted the trial pushed back from January 31st to April of 2011. That request was denied.

Gary Michael Hilton is accused of kidnapping and killing FSU Nurse and Crawfordville Sunday School teacher Cheryl Dunlap in December 2007.

In a hearing this morning, Hilton's attorney told the judge that she needed more time to prepare for trial, asking to delay it to early April.

Attorney Ines Suber says she's not surprised, but, disappointed that a seasoned judge denied her request.

"He knows the importance of allowing enough time for the lawyers to prepare. His decision is I have had enough time. I disagree respectfully with him." Suber said.

Circuit Court Judge James Hankinson told the court that he believed a three-year murder case was plenty of time and left the trial date for January 31st.

Suber says the reason she needed more time is because there are 632 witnesses that she can't all get to. She says the prosecution has not given her all necessary documentation and says that she will not be ready, or efficient, for a trial in January.

Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman did not agree with pushing the trial back. She says she has done her part of turning over all required documents to Hilton's defense team.

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Tallahassee, Florida (Eyewitness News) --

The judge denied a continuance request by the defense attorneys for Gary Michael Hilton. The trials is still set for January 31st. Hilton is accused of kidnapping and killing Cheryl Dunlap in December 2007.

Stay with WCTV for the latest.

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Tallahassee, Florida (Eyewitness News) --

The man accused of killing FSU nurse and Crawfordville Sunday school teacher Cheryl Dunlap may wait even longer to go to trial.

Gary Michael Hilton is accused of kidnapping and killing Dunlap in December 2007.

His trial is set for January 2011, but his attorneys are now asking the judge to delay the trial until April.

Defense Attorney Ines Suber says she has interviewed about 150 witnesses already and has hundreds more to depose before the trial.

Prosecutors listed all the witnesses as "category a" witnesses, Suber said, meaning they could all be called to testify. "In a death penalty case, it is my responsibility to find out what they have to say," Suber said.

The state attorney is seeking the death penalty in the case.

Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman will argue against the delay, saying "This isn't rocket science, they should be ready. They may be trying to wear us down so we'll offer a life sentence," Cappleman said. "That's not going to happen."

The judge will hear arguments on the motion for a continuance on October 22nd.


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