NORMAN — Defense attorneys for murder suspect Kevin Underwood claim prosecutors must have leaked information to a local TV station about a secret ruling regarding Underwood's taped confession. However, District Judge Candace Blalock, who issued the sealed ruling, has her own theory: The media hacked into a computer to get the information, Blalock said Wednesday during a pretrial hearing. "I am suspecting that I may have caused a problem myself,” she said, indicating that she "titillated” the local news channels by announcing that she would deliver her decision under seal, meaning the news outlets would not know whether a jury would hear Underwood's taped confession or see evidence gained in a search. Underwood, 28, is accused of killing 10-year-old neighbor Jamie Rose Bolin in a cannibalistic plot. Because of the case's high-profile nature, Blalock said, she theorizes news outlets went to extraordinary measures to get the sealed information, which would have been made clear later at the trial. After "titillating” the news media with unattainable information, Blalock said, she made the mistake of putting the information on the Internet by sending an e-mail to her home computer. "I don't doubt that they hired people to hack into the computers,” she said. "That's what I think happened, and I think that because I do not believe any of the lawyers involved here would violate (the order.)”
Death penalty foughtUnderwood's court-appointed attorneys were visibly upset about a local news report posted online Feb. 11 that certain incriminating statements made by Underwood would be admitted into evidence. They said they were convinced the district attorney's office had leaked the information because the article was posted less than an hour after defense attorneys received an e-mail about the sealed ruling. The purported "leak” prompted defense attorney G. Lynn Birch to ask Blalock to "take the death penalty off the table, claiming the structural integrity of the justice system was at stake. "We are outraged. The court needs to be outraged,” Birch said. "This is the latest chapter in this course of conduct from day one. Today is the day the court can act. Today is the day for this court to do the right thing.” Defense attorneys also want to remove stipulations that he get the death penalty if convicted. District Attorney Greg Mashburn denied the claims that his office had leaked sensitive details. "I understand they don't have much to go on with this defendant, but this is ridiculous,” Mashburn said. Mashburn's comment raised fervent objections from the defense and prompted Blalock to clear the courtroom so the parties could consider the defense motions without the presence of the media or the general public. Blalock never opened the court to the public again Wednesday, and it is unclear what if any action was taken.
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Kevin UnderwoodThe 28-year-old is accused of killing 10-year-old neighbor Jamie Rose Bolin in a cannibalistic plot in Purcell. Jury selection begins Tuesday, following the Monday holiday. The trial will be in Norman, because pretrial publicity on the case initiated a change of venue from Purcell.