Judge Clare Maier confirmed a June 20 preliminary hearing date for Lafayette teacher Michael Merrick Tuesday, while Deputy District Attorney Johanna Schonfield intimated a possible plea deal was in the offing.
The deputy district attorney and a lawyer representing the girl Merrick is alleged to have molested requested the case be closed to protect the child’s identity, an unusual move which found favor after allegations that details that could identify her appeared in a story on this news site – allegations Lamorinda Patch strongly denies.
Schonfield and attorney Richard Madsen both requested that arguments presented for closure of the courtroom to the public be made to Judge Maier due to her familiarity with the case and before the case is handed to Judge Nancy Davis Stark.
All of Merrick’s appearances have, to date, been before Maier, the attorneys said. The teacher has been in custody since his arrest on multiple felony counts of having sex with a minor on Oct. 17, 2010.
Maier briefly expressed concern that a new judge, hearing details of the case for the first time, would have to “ramp up” pretty quickly.
But in the end Berkeley attorney Elizabeth Grossman, who has been representing Merrick since his arrest, said details of the courtroom closure could be concluded during the June 15 conference without issue.