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Clay County judge to decide by June 1 if Andrew Lester case should be sealed

Andrew Lester in Court.jpg
Posted at 4:59 PM, May 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-22 18:20:14-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — No decision was made Monday related to a motion to seal the case of a man accused of shooting a teen who mistakenly went to his home.

Andrew Lester, 84, shot Ralph Yarl twice, including once in the head, on April 13 at his Northland home. Yarl was trying to pick up his two siblings.

Lester was charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action just days after the case garnered national attention.

The 84-year-old's attorneys later filed a motion asking for the case to be sealed.

Lester did not show up for the hearing on Monday, but the judge heard from both Lester's attorney and the Clay County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

His attorney said Lester is in poor health and recently lost 40 pounds after undergoing a heart procedure.

While in court, Lester's attorney Steve Salmon argued the coverage of the case from both local and national media is impacting Lester's chance of a fair trial by spreading "inaccurate accusations and false narratives."

Salman said celebrities like Halle Berry and Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas have called for justice for Yarl, which he argued could taint a jury.

Salmon said the case has "no racial elements." In a probable cause, Lester said he was "scared to death" because of Yarl's size.

Salmon told the judge Lester has relocated three times due to ongoing harassment and threats. Lester's wife, who was in a nursing home at the time of the shooting, has also had to relocate to a nursing home out of state, according to Lester's attorney.

Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Thompson responded to the motion, saying legal precedent favors the public to have access to the case.

"Justice should not only be done but be shown to be done," Thompson said in court.

Thompson also said if the case had been sealed, the judge needed to articulate why.

The judge asked Salmon why he thinks everything should be sealed, as opposed to redacting some components.

Salmon argued it'd be difficult to only seal certain aspects.

A spokesperson for the Clay County Prosecuting Attorney's Office said the judge expects to make a decision on sealing the case by June 1, which is Lester's next court date.