Michael Jacques is accused of kidnapping, drugging, raping, and murdering 12-year-old niece, Brooke Bennett.
On April 13, U.S. District Judge William Sessions granted an unopposed motion by the defense to extend the time for additional pretrial motions.
The defense requested the extension, saying they have considerable amounts of discovery to review – some of which they only received last month.
No trial date has been set.
Brooke was murdered last year in Randolph, Vermont.
Judge Linda Lofthus said she wants to ensure a fair trial for prosecutors and the defense attorneys of the woman accused of killing Sandra Cantu, Melissa Huckaby, so she sealed reports from the autopsy and also sealed the prosecution motion opposing the girl's disinterment. The disinterment motion by the defense has already been withdrawn.
Loftus sealed the motions saying Cantu family's privacy rights outweigh the public's need for the information.
It appears to some that Lofthus may be trying to protect Sandra's family from seeing the gruesome details contained in the autopsy report.
The judge’s motion was filed without a hearing with attorneys – a move that is not only unusual - it might be improper.
Per Recordnet: John Schick, a Stockton attorney said, “…it is highly unusual for a judge to seal a document independently in the interest of a victim's family.
"A unilateral ruling like this without the opportunity for parties in the case to have their say is unusual and perhaps improper," he said, adding that the attorneys usually make such request. "Why do we have public trials?"
Ruth Jones, an instructor at University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento said, "… the sealing of documents moves closer to private proceedings," she said. "Our judicial system functions best when it is public."
"If it's a high-profile case, those gruesome details will eventually become public if there's a trial," Jones said. "We as a society have a right to see the evidence."
The wheels of justice turn slowly.