FORT PIERCE — A judge has ruled that photos of the dead bodies of Blake and MaryJo Hadley should not be released to the public because they could keep Tyler Hadley, the couple's son who is accused of their murders, from getting a fair trial.
Tyler Hadley, who is 18 now, was 17 years old on July 16, 2011, when he allegedly beat his 47-year-old mother and 54-year-old father to death with a hammer at the family's home in the 300 block of Northeast Granduer Avenue in Port St. Lucie and then sent out invitations via Facebook for a party at the house.
Chief Deputy Public Defender Mark Harllee argued in a March 8 motion to Circuit Judge Robert R. Makemson that releasing the photos of the elder Hadleys as part of the pretrial discovery process "may compromise the defendant's right to a fair trial before a fair and impartial jury."
Makemson wrote in a March 14 order that he had looked at the photos privately and granted Harllee's request.
Charged with two counts of first-degree murder, Hadley faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Because he was a minor at the time of the homicides, he cannot be executed.
By Florida law, evidence in criminal cases becomes public when after it has been exchanged between prosecutors and defense attorneys in what's known as the "discovery" process.
In Hadley's case, Circuit Judge James McCann ruled in August 2011 that once information is exchanged, the receiving party has 20 days to decide if all or parts of it should be withheld from the public. Anything sought to be withheld is to be reviewed by the presiding judge, who will decide whether the evidence can be released.
Makemson took the case from McCann in January 2012.
Harllee said he asked for the restriction because widespread media coverage of the case.
In setting up the 20-day review process, McCann called it "a balancing act" between the media's right to access to public records and the defendant's right to a fair trial.
Harllee said he expected "the vast majority" of evidence would be open for release without taking it to the judge to review.
So far, Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers has received nearly 2,000 pages of evidence in the case.