SAN JOSE -- Attorneys for the man accused of kidnapping and killing Morgan Hill teen Sierra LaMar all but lost their bid Friday to keep the transcript of the grand jury hearing that led to his indictment on murder charges secret.

Responding to a request by this newspaper, Judge Griffin M.J. Bonini ordered the transcript unsealed July 11 unless defendant Antolin Garcia-Torres' lawyers manage to convince an appellate court to review the ruling. The paper argued that the public's right of access to court documents trumped Garcia-Torres' overstated concerns that pre-trial publicity will hurt his chances for a fair trial.

The release of the 2,000-plus-page transcript will make public for the first time some of the evidence prosecutors have against Garcia-Torres, who has been in custody for more than two years without bail on suspicion of killing Sierra . The 15-year-old vanished in March 2012 on her way to her school bus stop. Her body hasn't been found.

Once a defendant is indicted, the grand jury transcript is presumed to be public, putting the burden of proof on Garcia-Torres' attorneys to show why it should remain sealed. The document has been under seal for slightly more than four months.

Attorney Brian Matthews argued that media coverage of the grand jury transcript would likely hinder his client's already compromised chances of getting a fair trial, ultimately resulting in a need for a change of venue. The risk to his client is heightened, he said, because District Attorney Jeff Rosen announced last month that he is seeking the death penalty against Garcia-Torres.

But Bonini noted that "This is not a motion for change of venue."

The paper's attorneys David E. Snyder and James M. Chadwick contended that the coverage of the transcript was unlikely to contaminate the jury pool, particularly since Santa Clara County has a large population of 1.8 million people. Motions for a change of venue in much bigger cases, including the trial of Michael Jackson in much smaller Santa Barbara County, have been denied.

The last time a change of venue was granted in Santa Clara County was in 1980, when the county population -- and thus the jury pool -- was smaller. That's when the so-called San Jose Cheese Company murder trial involving the local Mafia was moved to Los Angeles County.

Two members of a citizens group that continues to help in the ongoing search for Sierra's body attended Friday's hearing. Afterward, searcher Doug Tollis praised Bonini's ruling, saying the group plans to scour the transcript in hopes it will help them pinpoint their search.

"It's about time," he said. "We've been searching blind."

Tollis also scoffed at the notion that most people know about the case -- though it appears he's doing his best to spread the word by plastering his green Toyota pickup with her photo and the phone number of the county Sheriff's Department. But even in Morgan Hill where she lived, Tollis said, "People say, who is Sierra?"

Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Follow her at Twitter.com/tkaplanreport.