Judge Considers Playing Aloud Tape of New Jersey Teacher Slaying as She Pleads for Her Life

The family of a teacher slain nearly 11 years ago and prosecutors asked a judge Monday to keep her secretly recorded pleas for her life from being played aloud during the trial of her accused killer.

A judge has ruled the jury could hear the tape, despite attempts by the defense and the victim's husband to suppress it. Judge James N. Citta will hear the new arguments Tuesday in an Ocean County courtroom.

Michael LaSane, 27, had pleaded guilty to murder in 1997, but the plea was overturned eight years later after it was revealed that his public defender had a sexual encounter with the suspect's mother.

He has since pleaded not guilty to killing 44-year-old Kathleen Weinstein who secretly recorded her ordeal in 1996. The tape was found in her pocket.

Prosecutors had planned to play the 46-minute tape Tuesday to the jury. They want the judge to either let jurors listen using headphones or bar the media from recording or playing the tape.

In their motion filed on Monday, prosecutors argued that publicly airing the tape would violate the victims' rights amendment to the state constitution and the state's Crime Victims' Bill of Rights. They also noted the tape's transcript has already been released.

The filing also included a statement from Weinstein's husband, Paul, who recounted how he got the tape copyrighted to discourage media outlets from attempting to obtain it. He wanted to ensure their son, then 6, was never exposed to it.

"How can we survive what to us is the entire world listening to our loved one's life being snatched from her, and the world as we know it crashing down upon us?" he said in the statement.

The complete transcript was released last week after lawyers for media outlets protested that the tapes were not played aloud.

The Associated Press and the Asbury Park Press of Neptune argue that evidence played to the jury should be heard by the public. Anything said in open court is a matter of public record.

James Friedman, LaSane's lawyer, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Kathleen Weinstein was returning to her car from a Toms River restaurant when she was grabbed from behind and forced into her car by someone saying he had a gun, authorities said. During her ordeal, she turned on a small tape recorder hidden in her coat pocket.

According to the transcript, the special education teacher spoke to the attacker, talking to him about God, brainstorming on how to find him another vehicle, suggesting she would help him find a job. She called her attacker "Michael" and offered to drive the teenager more than an hour to Newark to see his mother, according to the transcript.

The attacker said little in response, according to the transcript.

LaSane is charged with felony murder, kidnapping, robbery and carjacking. He could be sentenced to life plus 60 years in prison, with no parole consideration before 60 years, if he is convicted.