Records Kept Sealed in Quadruple Murder Trial

     (CN) – Various media outlets failed Friday to have a court unseal records in the capital case against a man accused of killing a family of four and burying their bodies in the Mojave Desert.
     Charles “Chase” Merritt, 57, is accused in San Bernardino, Calif., of the 2010 murders of Joseph McStay, 40, and his wife, Summer, 43. He also is accused of murdering the McStays’ children, Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr., 3.
     On Friday, Judge Michael Smith approved Merritt’s request to represent himself but denied requests from media outlets to unseal documents, saying access might compromise the trial, the Associated Press reported.
     More than a dozen media outlets argued the case no longer is being investigated, so the documents should not be sealed. The media outlets had filed a motion to release search warrants, statements regarding probable cause and affidavits, according to the Associated Press.
     With both the defense and prosecution opposing the motion, prosecutors reportedly said the records should be available before a preliminary hearing scheduled for April 7.
     Prosecutors say Merritt bludgeoned the family to death inside their home in Fallbrook on Nov. 4, 2010, the San Bernardino Sun reported.
     Merritt was a “business associate” of Joseph McStay, according to a CBS News article.
     An off-road driver found the family’s bodies buried in shallow graves in San Bernardino County in 2013, the Associated Press reported.
     Riverside County deputies arrested Merritt on Nov. 5, 2014, and he pleaded innocent to four murder charges on Nov. 12. He faces the death penalty, the Sun reported.
     Robert Ponce, the attorney who represented Merritt before Friday, reportedly told the court that his former client wants to represent himself and prove his innocence as quickly as possible because he has congestive heart failure and less than a year to live.

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