PUBLIC INFORMATION -- The family of an eight-year-old Tracy girl who was killed by a former
Sunday school teacher has filed a protective order to prevent details of
her murder from being publicly released, reports Terry Collins for the Associated Press.
Lawyers for Sandra Cantu's family said in documents filed this week
in San Joaquin County Superior Court that three news organizations'
formal request to release details about the 8-year-old's death last year
subjects the family to "an unwarranted media spectacle."
"Disclosure of this material is not only morally reprehensible, but
unconstitutional," attorneys Stewart Tabak and G. Archer Bakerink wrote.
"(Their request) fail to present any legitimate explanation or
justification as to why is it that the graphic, salacious and repulsive
details surrounding this young victim's tragic killing are necessary for
Even Sandra's reticent mother, Maria Chavez, said in a declaration
filed Thursday that she is "tortured" by her daughter's death. She said
any investigative information released "will cause devastating trauma to
my (other) children and me."
Citing high public interest, The Associated Press, Bay Area News
Group and the Record of Stockton, Calif., filed a court motion last week
challenging a judge's decision to keep a yearlong gag order and sealed
court records intact, despite Melissa Huckaby pleading guilty to
murdering Sandra in March 2009 in Tracy, Calif.
"Because much of this case has been shrouded in secrecy ... the
fairness of the deal to Huckaby, the people of the State of California,
and the family of Sandra Cantu deserves greater scrutiny," Duffy
Carolan, a San Francisco-based attorney jointly representing the news
organizations, said in the filing.
The news organizations' filing also said that many underlying facts
and information about the incident, ranging from the police
investigation to Huckaby's plea, remain largely unknown.
But Tabak argued that Sandra's family has a right to privacy, citing a
2008 state constitutional amendment dubbed Marsy's Law, which gives
victims and their families more input into criminal cases.
Chavez said in her declaration that her family has no desire to know
the specifics surrounding Sandra's kidnapping and murder.
"Every member of my family carries constant regrets and a sense of
guilt over things we could have done differently," Chavez said. "Not one
of us needs additional reminders of the horrible crimes Sandra
San Joaquin County Judge Linda Lofthus is set to hear the parties'
arguments on May 24 in Stockton.
A former Sunday school teacher, Huckaby, 29, faces 25 years to life
in prison without the possibility of parole when she is sentenced June
Legal experts have said the judge could be waiting to lift the orders
until after sentencing.
The incident drew national attention after a 10-day search for Sandra
a playmate of Huckaby's daughter ended when her body was found
stuffed in a black suitcase pulled from an irrigation pond a few miles
from a mobile home park where they lived.
Huckaby was arrested less than a week later after telling a reporter
that the suitcase that contained Sandra's body was hers, but that it had
been stolen out of her driveway the day Sandra disappeared.
Before her surprise confession last week, Huckaby's death penalty
trial was scheduled to begin in October.