Judge: Daniel Ehrlick's hearing may be kept secret

The judge wants the man charged in Robert Manwill's murder to be able to explain why he wants to fire his attorneys without harming his case.

March 19, 2010 

Allowing the public to hear why Daniel Ehrlick wants to get rid of his public defenders could violate his ability to get a fair trial, 4th District Judge Darla Williamson said Thursday.

She delayed a hearing on his motion and is considering sealing it to everyone but Ehrlick and his attorneys.

Ehrlick and his ex-girlfriend, Melissa Jenkins, are both charged with the first-degree murder of Jenkins' 8-year-old son, Robert Manwill, last summer. Ehrlick is accused of beating the boy to death. Jenkins is accused of covering up the crime and lying to police.

Ehrlick filed a surprise motion last week to get rid of attorneys Amyl Myshin and Gus Cahill - the most experienced murder trial attorneys in the Ada County public defender's office - saying they "lied and misguided me on my case."

In a boiler-plate one-page motion, Ehrlick indicated that he "feels badgered by the public defender's office" and that his attorneys have failed to file motions for him and have been hard to communicate with. Ehrlick did not object to Williamson's suggestion to close the hearing.

It appears she wants to make sure Ehrlick has the ability to discuss his issues without a premature public discussion of the evidence or potential defense strategies - both of which could affect his ability to get an unbiased jury, said former Idaho Attorney General David Leroy, a private attorney in Boise who is not involved in the case.

"Once that information is revealed, it can't be put back in the bottle," Leroy said.

Williamson delayed Thursday's hearing to give media outlets, including the Statesman, time to respond before she makes a decision.

Since the much-publicized search for the boy last summer, officials have kept many details of the case from the public.

Ehrlick's request to fire his attorneys comes at a key time in pre-trial preparation, as both sides have filed motions asking for strict time limits on the exchange of the vast amount of evidence gathered in the cases.

Ehrlick and Jenkins will be tried separately, with Ehrlick scheduled to go first in October.

Williamson told defense attorneys and prosecutors earlier this year that both trials were going to happen as scheduled and all sides had to meet their discovery deadlines to ensure that happened.

Ada County Deputy Prosecutors Jill Longhurst and Dan Dinger told Williamson Thursday they met a March 15 deadline to have all their forensic testing evidence (scientific tests on physical evidence gathered in the case) submitted to defense attorneys. That includes a package earlier this week that contained "significant" forensic evidence reports.

Patrick Orr: 373-6619

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