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4 plead not guilty to new indictment in Joliet double murder, but judge seals case file

Adam M. Landerman (clockwise from top left) AlisR. Massaro JoshuF. Miner Bethany L. McKee  |  Supplied photos

Adam M. Landerman (clockwise, from top left), Alisa R. Massaro, Joshua F. Miner and Bethany L. McKee | Supplied photos

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Updated: June 9, 2013 6:39AM

Four people arrested for a grisly double homicide in Joliet earlier this year all pleaded not guilty to a fresh criminal indictment Tuesday — but no one will say what’s in it.

A judge’s standing orders sealing the case file and gagging the attorneys left more questions than answers after the latest hearing in Will County for the group already charged with the murders of Eric Glover and Terrance Rankins.

It’s not clear what the new indictment contains, but prosecutors said there have been some changes in wording. Whether those changes are significant or not, a Chicago Sun-Times attorney told Judge Gerald Kinney that sealing the new indictment takes the secrecy surrounding the brutal murder case to a new level.

One legal expert later described the situation as “exceptional.”

“In my experience, it’s rare, extremely rare, for an indictment to be sealed,” said Jeff Urdangen, director of the Center for Criminal Defense at the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern University Law School.

Even at the federal level, Urdangen said, indictments are typically only sealed when a defendant has not been arrested or national security is at stake.

“But certainly the indictment does not remain forever sealed,” Urdangen said, “and I don’t expect it will be in this case.”

In fact, Kinney is expected to rule later this month on whether to let stand his own orders, which also gag some police departments and other agencies involved in the case. He heard arguments Tuesday from Seth Stern, an attorney for Sun-Times Media, and Joel Murphy, a defense attorney for Bethany McKee.

McKee, Joshua Miner, Adam Landerman and Alisa Massaro were charged nearly four months ago with murdering Glover and Rankins. The victim’s bodies were discovered Jan. 10 in Massaro’s home at 1121 N. Hickory St. after the men were strangled.

Leaked police reports contain conflicting interviews with suspects alleging that Miner and Massaro had sex on the men’s bodies, a source has confirmed. The disclosure of that and other outrageous details about the crime led to Kinney’s orders.

Sam Amirante, a former Cook County judge, and criminal defense attorney Joseph “The Shark” Lopez agreed it’s unusual for an entire file to be sealed. Lopez said the public has a right to know about the indictment, but Amirante said Kinney has a right to seal the file if he thinks it’ll protect the suspects’ rights.

The defendants were arraigned on the new indictment at the end of Tuesday’s hearing, and lawyers for all four waived formal readings of the new charges.

Stern argued earlier that the leaked police reports, which didn’t come from the case file, already have been exposed. He said any order sealing the file should be narrow. Murphy, meanwhile, said his client’s right to a fair trial should prevail over all else.

“No right ranks higher than the right of the accused to a fair trial,” Murphy said.

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