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JUDGE TAKING WRAPS OFF CONFESSION

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A district judge has ruled that the entire tape recording and transcript of the confession of James Edward Wood will be made public - but the material can't be copied.

Wood, 45, is to be sentenced this week for killing Jeralee Underwood, an 11-year-old carrier for the Idaho State Journal. He faces the death penalty from 6th District Judge Lynn Winmill.Police testified that Wood confessed to kidnapping the girl off a Pocatello street in June and shooting her the next day. He pleaded guilty to the crimes.

Only small portions of Wood's recorded confession and a 79-page transcript have been made public.

The Idaho Statesman, Boise, filed a formal request for release of the entire confession, and Winmill agreed Wednesday. The newspaper, in legal arguments, contended the public has a right to know what factors the judge considered in deciding the appropriate sentence.

In his written opinion, the judge said he had to weigh the public's right to know against protecting "the right of the victim and her family from public disclosure of intimate and highly sensitive information."

The taped confession was played during a presentence hearing.

Portions of the tape contained graphic information about what Wood said he did to the girl's body a week after he shot her. Wood was arrested later that day.

Winmill released 15 pages of the transcript detailing the murder but excluding post-murder acts.

While acknowledging the public's right to know, Winmill stated that in comparison, "the interests of the victim in this case and her family are distinct and clear in that they had survived a tragedy only to have it revisited upon them by what has been described as a constant barrage of media coverage."

Prosecutors objected to The Statesman's request, citing concerns for the family.

The judge said news media access to the tape or transcript to assure reporting accuracy may be valid, but there was a danger that "the motive of some may be to sensationalize the event so as to sell newspapers or improve television and radio station ratings."

John Costa, executive editor of The Idaho Statesman, said the paper is pleased that the judge will allow a reporter to listen to the tape and inspect the transcript.