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Judge Lifts Gag Order In Gardner Murder Case

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Aired 4/23/10

A San Diego judge has lifted a gag order in the case of a convicted sex offender who admitted raping and killing 17-year-old Chelsea King and 14-year-old Amber Dubois.

Amber Dubois (L) and Chelsea King

Above: Amber Dubois (L) and Chelsea King

— A San Diego judge today lifted a gag order in the case of a convicted sex offender who admitted raping and killing 17-year-old Chelsea King and 14-year-old Amber Dubois.

John Albert Gardner III, 31, pleaded guilty Friday to the rapes and murders of Chelsea, a Poway High senior, and Amber, an Escondido High School freshman.

In addition to lifting the gag order that had been in place, San Diego Superior Court Judge David Danielsen rejected a request by Chelsea's parents for a new order blocking the media from making public information contained in court documents about the killings.

Danielsen had discussed the issue privately with attorneys for Chelsea's parents on Tuesday. Chelsea’s mother, Kelly King, spoke with KPBS about the gag order being lifted.

"There’s no one that can convince me that the brutal details of what happened to Chelsea is necessary, is relevant, is something that the public needs to be aware of," she said.

In a statement, her parents said, "This action has become necessary in response by some media outlets to obtain the release of all records related to Chelsea's death, which runs counter to the King's family's wishes to honor their daughter's memory, and to allow the community to heal."

Gardner attacked, raped and killed Chelsea, who disappeared after going for a run Feb. 25 at Rancho Bernardo Community Park. The avid runner and straight-A student's body was found March 2 in a shallow grave near a tributary of nearby Lake Hodges -- not far from Gardner's mother's home.

Mario Conte is a Practitioner in Residence at California Western School of Law. He says he’s not surprised by the Judge’s ruling.

"Generally when you’re balancing freedom of speech and the right of access of the press to information, generally those freedoms which are incorporated in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights are going to be enforced pretty liberally by most judges," he said.

Conte says it’s hard to balance victim’s rights with freedom of the press. He says the First Amendment is all-or-nothing.

Gardner admitted attacking King while she was jogging, taking her to a remote area where he raped and strangled her and buried her in a shallow grave.

He also admitted killing Amber Dubois, who vanished Feb. 13, 2009, while walking to Escondido High School. Her skeletal remains were found March 6 in Pala based on what Gardner told authorities.

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