Will teen's trial in stabbing death of pastor's daughter be public?

NEW BRUNSWICK --  The trial of a teenager accused of fatally stabbing a local pastor's daughter may have to be prosecuted by out-of-county attorneys and could be closed to the press and public depending on how a judge rules on a motion discussed...

Will teen's trial in stabbing death of pastor's daughter be public?

NEW BRUNSWICK --  The trial of a teenager accused of fatally stabbing a local pastor's daughter may have to be prosecuted by out-of-county attorneys and could be closed to the press and public depending on how a judge rules on a motion discussed in court on Friday.

The developments in the murder case in Middlesex County Superior Court centered around a set of sealed documents given to Judge Dennis Nieves, described as "voluminous"  by the judge. It is unclear who gave the documents to the judge and who ordered they be sealed.

Jason Molina, who appeared in court in a suit, is accused of killing 23-year-old Christine Huh, of Somerset, at the Skyline Towers in New Brunswick on May 10, 2015. Molina was 16 years old when he was charged with murdering the daughter of Bong Kee Huh, senior pastor at Praise Presbyterian Church in the Somerset section of Franklin Township. 

Superior Court Judge James F. Hyland ruled in 2015 that Molina, who is now 18, would be tried as an adult because of the severity of the charges. He is being held on $1 million bail. 

"After reviewing those documents," Nieves said in court on Friday afternoon, "I then turned them over to the parties -- because neither party, as a result of its confidential nature, had access to those files -- to see whether they had any relevancy in this case. 

Molina's attorney, Steven Altman, said the documents were relevant and he planned to use part of the information in his defense argument.

But he also filed a motion to have the prosecutor's office removed from the case. 

The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office responded that it would move to bar the public and the press from the entirety of the trial because of the sensitive nature of the sealed documents that only have been read by the judge, the defense team and prosecutor's office.

Altman argued Friday that a formal motion on barring the public should be filed by the prosecutor's office so the defense could respond. 

"Often when you have these motions being made, it's to recuse a judge," Altman said outside the courtroom following the status conference. He did not say why he filed the motion or what would require the prosecutor's office to recuse itself. 

"The issue became whether or not there would be a violation of the sealing order to argue in open court," Altman said, referring to the suggestion by the prosecutor's office that the trial be closed to the public.

The prosecutor's office would not comment on the motions or the sealed documents. 

Nieves is set to hear arguments on the motion on April 5 at 9 a.m. 

If the prosecutor's office was to recuse itself, an assistant prosecutor from an adjacent county or lawyer from Attorney General's would prosecute the case, according to Altman. 

Craig McCarthy may be reached at CMcCarthy@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @createcraig and on Facebook here. Find NJ.com on Facebook

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