Attorney for Auburn woman accused of killing daughter asks for court documents to be sealed

Leanna Norris is shown into court on Friday at the Penobscot Judicial Center for her arraignment on murder charges in connection with the death of her daughter Loh Grenda.
Leanna Norris is shown into court on Friday at the Penobscot Judicial Center for her arraignment on murder charges in connection with the death of her daughter Loh Grenda. Buy Photo
Posted July 10, 2013, at 9:28 a.m.
Last modified July 10, 2013, at 6:15 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The attorney for the Auburn woman accused of killing her 2½-year-old daughter has asked that all search warrant affidavits connected to the case be sealed until she has a chance to review them.

Superior Court Justice Ann Murray is scheduled to rule on the motion to keep the documents out of public view at 10 a.m. Friday, a Penobscot Judicial Center clerk said Wednesday.

Leanna Norris, 24, who police say is formerly from Stetson, was arrested July 3 and charged with murder in the death of her daughter, Loh Melody Grenda. Police say the toddler died on the evening of June 23 in Newport. Her body was discovered early the next morning inside a car in Stetson.

The medical examiner’s office has ruled that Grenda is a homicide victim but is withholding the manner of her death.

Martha J. Harris of Bangor, Norris’ court-appointed attorney, filed the motion late Tuesday. She was out of the office on Wednesday, a receptionist at her office said.

Norris entered a not guilty plea during her Friday morning arraignment. She is being held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail. Her bail hearing has not been scheduled.

After the body was discovered, Norris was taken to a medical facility in Rockport where she received treatment until her arrest, according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Norris, who went to Central High School in Corinth and graduated in 2007, according to her Facebook page, was secretly indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury in June, so no probable cause affidavit has been filed stating why she was arrested.

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson said Wednesday that on June 3 he filed a motion to suppress the two search warrant affidavits until Norris was arrested.

Investigators conducted two searches on June 24 and June 27, but Benson would not disclose where or what was found. He also said he does not see a reason why the documents should remain sealed, since Norris is now behind bars.

Harris listed three reasons in her motion to seal the court documents, including that the release of the items “could be detrimental to the defendant’s case if any search warrant affidavits are released to the press prior to defense counsel’s receipt and review of discovery.”

Also, “The state has not yet provided defense counsel with any of the discovery in this matter [and] the defendant and her counsel must have an opportunity to review the discovery prior to the release of any search warrant affidavits to the press.”

The motion by Harris also states that Benson “was unavailable to ascertain his position on this motion.”

The motion to seal documents in a murder case is the second such action to be taken in recent months.

The defense attorney for Kyle Dube, 20, of Orono, who is charged with murder in the death of Nichole Cable, 15, of Glenburn on May 12, also requested court documents be sealed.

Superior Court Justice William Anderson, who originally granted a motion to seal the documents until Dube had been indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury, denied Bangor attorney Stephen Smith’s request that documents be kept secret until Dube’s trial.

Dube was indicted on May 29 and Anderson made his ruling shortly afterward.

“Probable cause affidavits have traditionally been released to the public after an arrest is made, and public access to such information plays a significant positive role in the functioning of the judicial process because it adds transparency to the criminal justice system and keeps the public informed,” Anderson wrote in his May 29 ruling. “The court therefore concludes that the press has a right to access the information contained in a probable cause affidavit.”

The affidavit in the Dube case was made public immediately after Anderson issued his order.

If convicted of murder, both Norris and Dube face between 25 years and life in prison.

BDN reporters Judy Harrison and Nick McCrea contributed to this story.

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