Andrew Lester, charged with the shooting and killing of 16-year-old Ralph Yahl in April, pled not guilty in Clay County Court on Wednesday. The defense requested that the 84-year-old be granted a protection order due to harassment and health concerns faced by him and his family.
Attorney Stephen Salmon argued that earlier allegations should be sealed as there has been a “storm of inaccurate information” and public speculation about Mr. Lester, which could undermine his right to a fair trial. Mr. Lester did not appear in court on Monday. Salmon also claimed that the press and some politicians have distorted the facts of the case by branding Mr. Lester as a racist without evidence.
The case has gained international attention as Yahl, a black man, was shot in the head and arm while trying to pick up his brothers. This incident sparked a debate about explicit and implicit racism and gun rights in the United States, and civil rights lawyers hired by Yahl’s family, along with other lawyers, are asking for criminal charges against Lester.
Salmon outlined his own claims on Monday, saying the “poor” public information has already fueled false speculation about Leicester. Due to the high profile, Lester has received threats and intimidation, and has also faced security concerns that forced him to move three times.
Clay County prosecutor Zachary Thompson told the court that any decision to limit the amount of information released should be explained to the public. If the court decided to close the case, Mr. Thompson requested a court order outlining the reasons behind the decision.
Judge Louis Angles of Clay County, who is overseeing the criminal case, did not rule on the matter Monday. He said he would consider the allegations along with the four pieces of evidence presented by the defense before reaching a decision. Lester is next scheduled to appear in court on June 1.