Judge denies request to file sealed documents
December 9, 2003
In an order released Tuesday, District Judge Terry Ruckriegle denied a request by District Attorney Mark Hurlbert to allow the district attorney and Bryant’s attorney Pamela Mackey to file every motion containing potential evidence under seal.
Ruckriegle’s order says each filing will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. The order says that if Ruckriegle agrees that information contained in a particular motion could taint the jury pool, he’ll allow the information to remain sealed from public view.
“The judge urged them to do so prudently,” explained local attorney Rohn Robbins. “Not everything should be filed under seal. Sensitive material can be, but it must be accompanied by a “written order of proof,’ an explanation as to why the material in that particular motion should be kept away from the public.”
Ruckriegle urged attorneys for both sides use the procedure “sparingly and wisely.”
“They’ll deal with everything item by item,” explained Robbins. “They’re allowed to file under seal with an explanation as to why they’re doing so.”
Ruckriegle will then decide whether the information will remain under seal.
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Ruckriegle seemed unimpressed with arguments from Hurlbert and Mackey that information in the motions could muddy the waters in the jury pool.
“While it is admirable to attempt to prevent potential tainting of the jury pool, giving counsel free reign to file any such motions under seal is potentially problematic in a case with this level of public interest, which has been generated by the media,” Ruckriegle wrote in his ruling. “The Court does agree, and find, that the level of media coverage is unprecedented, and even potentially pervasive in a community the size of Eagle County.”
However, Ruckriegle wrote that the jury pool has already been hammered with information, some of which won’t be allowed in the trial.
“A considerable amount of evidence, including some which potentially may be ruled inadmissible at trial, was presented at the preliminary hearing, and ultimately widely disseminated by the media almost instantaneously,” wrote Ruckriegle. “Given the expansive amount of “information’ publication that has transpired, the Court could certainly conclude that there is a substantial probability that disclosure of additional information would prejudice the right to fair trial of either or both parties.”