SAN DIEGO—A San Diego judge Thursday lifted a gag order in the case of a convicted sex offender who admitted raping and killing 17-year-old Chelsea King and 14-year-old Amber Dubois.
John Albert Gardner III, 31, pleaded guilty Friday to the rapes and murders of Chelsea, a Poway High senior, and Amber, an Escondido High School freshman.
In addition to lifting the gag order that had been in place, San Diego Superior Court Judge David Danielsen rejected a request by Chelsea's parents for a new order blocking the media from making public information contained in court documents about the killings. Danielsen said the request was overly broad and unconstitutional.
Danielsen had discussed the issue privately with attorneys for Chelsea's parents on Tuesday.
In a statement, her parents said, "This action has become necessary in response by some media outlets to obtain the release of all records related to Chelsea's death, which runs counter to the King's family's wishes to honor their daughter's memory, and to allow the community to heal.''
Their attorney, Edward Patrick Swan said some court documents like autopsy reports, or crime scene photos should be kept private.
"This is information that serves no legal public interest," said Swan. "The images and details of the physical injuries. The legitmate public interest is in the nature of the crime. The murder and rape which is already known to the media and the public."
"Nor do we need the public dissemination of some of this information...what good is it," said Kelly King, mother of Chelsea King in an interview before the hearing.
Attorney Guylin Cummins, representing media outlets, argued that keeping the gag order would create a "chilling" effect that infringes on Constitutional rights and freedom of the press.
"The press should be free to report on crime," said Cummins. "It is not good in society for crime to be handled by the courts, or law enforcement, or anybody else in secret."
Gardner's attorney, Michael Popkins, was hoping Judge Danielsen would postpone the release of information until June 1...the day Gardner is scheduled to be sentenced.
However, Danielsen said that under the law, there is little the court can do to prolong, or continue the gag order.
"There have been a number of governmental and political decisions in this case, that deserve the scrutiny of a free and vigrous media," said Danielsen.
According to Cummins, just because the gag order is lifted, it doesn't mean that records will be easily accessible. She said it is still up to the individual agencies to release information.
Despite the gag order, deputy district attorney Kristin Spieler said that her office will respect the families wishes.
"The district attorney is going to honor their wishes, and not speak about this case publicly. And in addition, we have requested that law enforcement agencies, also honor their request," she said.
Gardner attacked, raped and killed Chelsea, who disappeared after going for a run Feb. 25 at Rancho Bernardo Community Park. The avid runner and straight-A student's body was found March 2 in a shallow grave near a tributary of nearby Lake Hodges -- not far from Gardner's mother's home.
Gardner admitted attacking King while she was jogging, taking her to a remote area where he raped and strangled her and buried her in a shallow grave.
He also admitted killing Amber Dubois, who vanished Feb. 13, 2009, while walking to Escondido High School. Her skeletal remains were found March 6 in Pala based on what Gardner told authorities.