"Supreme Court keeps Aurora death penalty case file sealed," is the AP report, via the Aurora Sentinel.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by a Colorado death row inmate who argued it is a violation of his First Amendment rights that the court file from his murder case remains sealed six years after his conviction.
Attorneys for Sir Mario Owen had asked the high court to overturn Colorado rulings that maintained his trial judge’s earlier order that both sealed the file and barred them from distributing any documents from the case, even transcripts of testimony during the trial. Owens is one of three people on Colorado’s death row.
He was convicted in 2008 of killing the witness in another murder trial and that man’s girlfriend. Prosecutors had cited that history in asking the trial court to restrict access to court records.
Owens’ attorneys said they wanted to be able to distribute the case records to publicize government misconduct.
The Colorado Supreme Court denied Owens’ request last year. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the appeal Mondau without written comment.
"U.S. Supreme Court won't hear request to unseal Sir Mario Owens case," is by Jordan Steffen of the Denver Post.
Attorney Steve Zansberg, who represents several media organizations including The Denver Post, has filed a motion in Arapahoe County District Court — where the case was originally tried — to unseal the case.
Andrew Cohen writes, "The problem with claiming a 'witness safety' exception to the First Amendment," for the Week.
The concept of a public trial is at the heart of the Bill of Rights. It's right there in the Sixth Amendment, right next to the part about impartial juries. It's right there in the First Amendment, too, right there in the part about the freedom of the press.
And yet, our public trials are often not nearly as public as we think.
For instance, in Colorado, there's a remarkable case that is forcing judges to balance in an unprecedented way the constitutional rights of criminal defendants and media organizations with a much more practical right — the right of witnesses to be protected from violence before and after they testify against alleged murderers.
So far, to the chagrin of First Amendment advocates, the Colorado courts have sided with those witnesses (and prosecutors), blocking from public view the written record of a murder trial that concluded six years ago. Even today, as the post-trial phase of this case wends its way through the courts amid substantial allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, the courts have kept the record sealed.
Earlier coverage of the case begins at the link.