TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — The State of Indiana has requested a gag order be placed on Michael and Kristine Barnett in their ongoing child neglect case. Prosecutors are requesting the order be placed on any documents, medical/mental health records or educational records received from sources other than the state.
The motion also requests a gag order be placed on information being shared with the media.
Michael and Kristine Barnett appear in Tippecanoe County to plead not guilty on Sept. 27
The home on N. 11th Street in Lafayette where court documents say the Barnett girl lived. The home is divided into several apartments. Photo: Trevor Peters
The state is concerned that Michael and Kristine Barnett, or their attorneys, will release information in medical or educational records, according to court documents.
The motion says under Indiana law, a gag order to prevent the accused from speaking to the media before a trial can be issued if there is a "reasonable likelihood that pretrial publicity will prejudice a fair trial."
For a gag order to go into effect, three things must be shown, according to the motion.
First, the substantial likelihood of prejudice to a fair trial must be proven. Second, the documents say the order must be drawn so that it only restricts speech to the extent necessary to get a fair trial. The documents say parties can still assert innocence and make general statements about the allegations. They can also discuss matters that are public record.
Lastly, the documents say the gag order must be the least restrictive means of remedying the potential for extensive pretrial publicity. Other options for "curing" publicity include a change of venue, jury sequestration, a delayed trial, etc., according to prosecutors.
"Given the extensiveness of the media coverage already — in sheer number of reports, the various media they have appeared in, and their broad geographic scope (as several of the interviews have been broadcast over national media) — it is apparent that no "curative" measures would be adequate. Potential jurors from all over the state will potentially be exposed to the coverage, so a change of venue would be unhelpful...," the documents read.
Prosecutors note that a quick Google search reveals more than 70 articles in multiple languages regarding the Barnett case.
A hearing is set for Wednesday.
Michael and Kristine Barnett pleaded not guilty to two counts of child neglect.
Prosecutors allege the Barnetts, now separated, adopted a girl from Ukraine, legally changed her age and left her in a Lafayette apartment before moving to Canada. The girl has a form of dwarfism. News 18 is choosing not to name the girl due to age uncertainty.
The family lived in Hamilton County, and a friend of Kristine Barnett tells News 18 the couple had a "traumatic adoption experience" with the girl. The friend said the girl tried to physically harm the family multiple times. The Barnetts soon believed they were scammed into the adoption, according to the friend. The family said the girl's dwarfism may have disguised her real age.
Between 2010 and 2012, the Barnetts had the girl's age tested, according to prosecutors. Court documents cite two doctors' reports from Peyton Manning Children's Hospital showing the girl's age to be about 8-years-old in 2010 and 11-years-old in 2012.
However, a doctor's report from IU Health, provided by Kristine Barnett, said otherwise. The report said the girl's records from Ukraine were "grossly incomplete."
"The birth certificate that was given to the Barnetts showed a date of birth of 9/4/3. This date is clearly inaccurate," the report said.
The report goes on to say the girl had been seen by a dentist and neuropsychologist, both of which determined she had characteristics of a full-grown adult.
The Barnetts' son Jacob, a physics prodigy, was the feature of a "60 Minutes" report in 2012 highlighting the child's successes. The boy was offered to continue his education at the Perimeter Institute in Canada. The report even appears to show the girl.
Before they left, prosecutors said the Barnetts had the girl's age legally changed from 8-years-old to 22 in June 2012. That would make the girl 30-years-old now in the eyes of the state.