Man accused in Massachusetts family slaying asks to keep details sealed from public view
WOBURN, Mass. – Lawyers for a Massachusetts man accused of killing his wife, two children and mother-in-law asked Thursday to keep some "highly inflammatory" details of the slayings sealed from public view, arguing that the information could put him at risk in prison and "prejudice a vast array of jurors against him."
Thomas Mortimer IV is accused of killing his family in June at their Winchester home.
In court Thursday, his lawyer, Denise Regan, argued that four lines from a nine-page summary of the evidence against him should remain under wraps because the information being released publicly could affect his right to a fair trial.
Regan said the details would "unduly stress the defendant's elderly relatives and other relatives in the case." Regan also said the information is so inflammatory, "it would put the defendant at risk in custody" at the Billerica House of Correction.
Prosecutor Adrienne Lynch said prosecutors agreed to redact the four lines after learning the information could affect "the well-being of others" who do not know about the details yet.
Lynch said the summary of the evidence is a "fair and accurate recitation of the evidence in the case," but prosecutors decided not to oppose the temporary redaction of four lines "in the best interests of these third parties." She said redacting the lines does not prohibit prosecutors from offering that evidence later.
Mortimer is accused of killing his wife, Laura Stone Mortimer, mother-in-law, Ellen Stone, and two children, 4-year-old Thomas Mortimer V, and 2-year-old Charlotte Mortimer after what prosecutors said was an argument with his wife. Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone has also said the couple had "ongoing marital discord."
An attorney for The Boston Globe and The Associated Press argued that the details should be made public, saying the defense has not shown that releasing the information will jeopardize Mortimer's right to a fair trial.
Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Fahey took the request under advisement and did not indicate when she would issue her ruling.
Fahey said the lines begin with the word "I'' and end with the word "myself," an apparent reference to a letter prosecutors say Mortimer left, confessing to the killings.
In a separate matter, Fahey questioned whether Mortimer is indigent for the purposes of appointing legal counsel to represent him.
She said Mortimer initially filled out a form saying he had a retirement account, but later filled out a longer form on which he also listed a $25,000 college fund for his slain children and various bank accounts, for a total of $38,000 in assets, plus two cars.
Regan asked that he be found indigent, but able to contribute $10,000.
After questioning Mortimer about his assets, the judge found that Mortimer is able to contribute $40,000 toward his defense.
His lawyer said the college fund is in his slain wife's name and it is unclear whether he will have access to that money.
Mortimer is originally from Avon, Conn.