WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - UPDATE: Austin Harrouff's attorneys filed an appeal Monday afternoon to try to stop the release of the Dr. Phil Interview. More info to come.
WPTV legal representatives won a legal battle Wednesday to unseal an interview between TV personality Dr. Phil and accused murderer Austin Harrouff.
Harrouff is charged with killing Tequesta couple, Michelle Mishcon and John Stevens. He also is charged with attempted murder for attacking Jeff Fisher, a good samaritan who allegedly tried to stop the attack, and survived.
While Harrouff was hospitalized, also injured during the incident, he gave an interview to Dr. Phil.
The interview happened just days before he was released from the hospital and arrested.
Dr. Phil publicized intent to air the interview, but backed out last minute.
While details of the content discussed in the interview have not yet been made public, WPTV requested access to it, citing public information rights.
It has been filed as discovery evidence.
“It’s absolutely a public record as it stands. The only issue is whether there is a reason to close off access to that public record,” said WPTV legal representative Deanna Schullman.
Defense attorneys for Harrouff argued that releasing the interview could hurt Harrouff’s right to a fair trial. “The time and the opportunity to control the pre trial publicity is now,” said one of Harrouff’s attorneys, Nellie King.
Circuit Judge Lawrence Mirman granted the release of the video late Wednesday, but the video will not be released for up to 48 hours.
Harrouff’s attorneys will have 48 hours to file an appeal, according to the judge’s order.
He explained in his decision that the interview will not impact Harrouff’s fair trial, in his opinion. Mirman also stated in the order that the interview does not constitute a confession to first degree premeditated murder, and not an acknowledgement of guilt as to first degree murder.
The judge also wrote it appeared through the video that the defendant, or more likely, the defendant's father requested the interview be done while Harrouff was in the hospital.
Harrouff's attorneys said they did not know the interview was being done.
A local defense attorney, unrelated to the case, Gregg Lerman, said the timing of the video release will provide a challenge for the defense leading up to the trial.
“You just don’t want it to come out before the trial. You don’t want it to poison the trial. You don’t want it to poison a jury pool ahead of time. You want to be able to deal with it on that one occasion and make sure you have all your ducks in a row,” Lerman said.
Harrouff’s father, Wade Harrouff, declined to comment following the hearing Wednesday.
Family of Michelle Mishcon and John Stevens were in the courtroom during the hearing.
Stevens’ children and Jeff Fisher have been able view the interview before it goes public.
Lemon believes it is highly unlikely that Harrouff’s attorneys would win an appeal to keep the interview sealed.