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Judge seals records in the case of the Kansas City man charged with shooting Ralph Yarl

A mug shot of Andrew Lester, an 84-year-old white man who lives in the Northland, over a blurred photo of his home.
Photo illustration
Andrew D. Lester has been charged with two felonies for shooting Ralph Yarl on April 13, 2023.

The Clay County Judge ruled that the case against Andrew Lester, the 84-year-old white man who shot 17-year-old Ralph Yarl, be sealed so that he receives a fair and impartial trial. Judge Louis Angles cited the harassment, media coverage and threats Andrew Lester has faced.

The case against Andrew Lester, the 84-year-old man who shot Ralph Yarl through a door when the Black teen accidentally rang his doorbell, has been sealed from the public.

Steven Salmon, Lester’s attorney,said that the defendant has had to move three times because of vandalization and threats and has been called a racist and a murderer. He argued that the widespread coverage of the case would prevent Lester from receiving a fair trial.

Lester pleaded not guilty to two felony charges for first-degree assault and armed criminal action April 19, when he first appeared in court.

Clay County Judge Louis Angles granted the motion Tuesday for a protective order to seal the case. The court found that the evidence of multiple texts harassing Lester, nationwide coverage and speculation about the case, and the fact he’s had to move himself and move his wife to a different nursing home proved that his “life and physical safety are in jeopardy.”

Page 1 of State v. Andrew Lester: Protective Order
Contributed to DocumentCloud by Savannah Hawley-Bates (KCUR 89.3) • View document or read text

Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Thompson opposed the seal, saying any trial should play out in the public.

“Justice should not only be done, but be shown to be done,” he said at the initial hearing for the sealing.

After Angles sealed the case, Thompson said in a statement that his office remains dedicated to transparency in the case.

“Our office is dedicated to following the law and accepts the ruling of the Court,” he said. “We can assure the public that our office will continue to be as transparent as legally permitted throughout this process. Our focus remains squarely on achieving justice in this case.”

Moving forward, all names of witnesses, evidence in the case and exhibits used will be sealed from the public. The next hearing for Lester is scheduled for June 1 at 1:30 p.m.

Yarl’s family has said he continues to heal, both physically and emotionally, from the shooting and is hoping to return to his normal life and activities soon. He recently appeared with family at a 5 and 10k “Going the Distance for Brain Injury” race to raise awareness for brain injuries on Memorial Day.

When news breaks, it can be easy to rely on officials and people in power to get information fast. As KCUR’s general assignment and breaking news reporter, I want to bring you the human faces of the day’s biggest stories. Whether it’s a local shop owner or a worker on the picket line, I want to give you the stories of the real people who are driving change in the Kansas City area. Email me at savannahhawley@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @savannahhawley.
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