Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Judge resists unsealing Dear affidavits

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2016 at 11:00 AM

click to enlarge Dear: A psychological evaluation is pending.
  • Dear: A psychological evaluation is pending.

For those following the increasingly protracted effort to gain access to search warrant and arrest warrant affidavits in the case of Robert Lewis Dear Jr., the accused Planned Parenthood shooter, it doesn't look like the public will learn very much very soon.

A coalition of media, including the Independent and the Gazette, is trying to advance transparency in the case. For details of this argument, check this out:
Motion_to_Unseal.pdf
District Judge Gilbert Martinez filed a 43-page argument recently for why he's right to withhold these documents from the public, along with 73 additional pages of transcripts form the Dear hearings.

Read his arguments here:
Combined_Honorable_Gilbert_Martinez_s_Answer_to_Order_and_Rule_to_Show_C....pdf
To read the Public Defender's Office's pleading in the case, representing Dear, click on this:

Answer_-_PD_-_Dear.pdf
The following was filed by the District Attorney's Office:

Answer_-_People_-_Dear.pdf
Lastly, the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition executive director reports that Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has an opinion about it also:
By Jeffrey A. Roberts
CFOIC Executive Director

The judge in the Planned Parenthood shooting case defended his sealing of court records, arguing Tuesday that news organizations did not have a First Amendment or Colorado constitutional right to inspect the records while the police investigation was ongoing.

Answering a Jan. 27 order from the Colorado Supreme Court, state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman outlined reasons why El Paso County District Court Judge Gilbert Martinez was right to seal affidavits of probable cause in the case against Robert Lewis Dear. Coffman’s office represents the Colorado Judicial Branch on legal matters.

Accepting a media consortium’s arguments for unsealing the records would be “unprecedented in Colorado” and “contrary to the great weight of the case law,” Coffman wrote. Doing so, she added, would undermine the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act, the Supreme Court’s rules on access to court records and “the important supervisory powers of the trial courts to protect ongoing criminal investigations and the privacy rights of victims and witnesses.”

Dear, 57, is accused of killing three people and wounding nine others during a shooting rampage at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on Nov. 27.

The media consortium argued that Martinez’ order could keep the affidavits secret for more than a year, which would “deprive the public of knowing the most basic facts of what prompted government authorities to arrest Dear, to search his residence, and to file (a) 179-count criminal complaint.”

The media organizations urged the Supreme Court to clarify that under both the federal and state constitutions, “the public enjoys a presumed right of access to documents on file in Colorado criminal cases after the defendant has been formally charged…”

But Coffman, on Martinez’ behalf, presented arguments that neither constitution guarantees that right.

Her filing acknowledges, however, that three months into the case, the criminal investigation is likely over, “significantly diminishing the trial court’s concern that public disclosure would harm the process.” And because Dear has made statements proclaiming his guilt, “information that might have been previously sealed or redacted is now in the public domain.”

“Although the majority of the shooting victims’ names have not been released and would be appropriately redacted, these changed circumstances may render it appropriate to release the affidavits of probable cause in redacted form,” Coffman wrote.

The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition also signed the media consortium's Supreme Court petition as did the Colorado Press Association, the Colorado Broadcasters Association and the Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Follow the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition on Twitter @CoFOIC. Like CFOIC’s Facebook page.

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