Most evidence to remain sealed
Judge Fred Gannett gave everyone a little of what they wanted, and a little less, with his ruling on motions to unseal the criminal investigation file in the Bryant case.
“It’s a fairly simple decision in a very complicated case,” said Gannett.
Under Gannett’s ruling, Bryant’s arrest warrant can be unsealed, along with Bryant’s appearance bond filed on July 7, and Clear Creek County Judge Russell Granger’s order of July 4 giving Bryant permission to leave the state after posting bond.
Those documents, however, will only be unsealed if Bryant’s attorneys, Harold Haddon and Pamela Mackey, don’t file an appeal before Aug. 31.
“The judge gave everyone something, then invited everyone to appeal,” said Rohn Robbins, attorney for the Vail Daily and Colorado Mountain News Media, one of the media outlets asking that the entire file be unsealed. “This unequivocally will engender an appeal.”
What remains sealed is all the physical evidence and affidavits – statements by the alleged victim, Bryant, investigators and witnesses.
While the arrest warrant will remain sealed pending an appeal by the end of the month, the rest of the evidence and affidavits will remain sealed until after a judgment is made – either convicting or acquitting Bryant, or District Attorney Mark Hurlbert dropping the case.
Even after that, the information might not be available to the public. Gannett’s ruling allows “any interested party,” someone with a direct interest in the case, to file a motion within 15 days of the case’s conclusion to have the information sealed forever.
While Gannett’s decision is frustrating to members of the media who want everything and want it immediately, Robbins said Gannett’s ruling is prudent.
“I think he has been conscientious about what he thinks he must do,” said Robbins.
In effect, said Robbins, Gannett’s ruling defers definitive decision on the issues. The appeals will likely be heard by the District Court judge who will eventually preside over the trial.
“Gannett will not hear the appeal,” explained Robbins. “The appeal level for County Court is the District Court.”
That means the judge who hears the appeals, probably District Judge Tom Moorhead, will also be the judge who presides over the trial. That judge will also ultimately decide what remains sealed from public view and what will be unsealed – a decision that will play a large part in the trial, said Robbins.
“Gannett expressed candidly that one of his concerns is crafting a decree that his successor has to live with,” said Robbins. “This gives Judge Moorhead the opportunity to make a decision with which he must live.”
1. The district attorney’s motion to seal is granted in part and denied in part.
2. The media applicants to unseal is granted in part and denied in part.
3. The arrest warrant and return of service and (identifying evidence) shall be unsealed.
4. The arrest warrant affidavit, (physical evidence), affidavit, and the search warrant, return of inventory and affidavit shall remain sealed until judgement is entered. At that time, any interested party may motion the court to further preclude disclosure within 15 days of the date of entry of judgement.
5. Upon the request of the parties, execution of this order is stayed for 10 days in order to allow the parties sufficient time to exercise any appeal rights.
– The arrest warrant and return of service and evidence indicating they arrested the person they were supposed to.
What’s still sealed
– Statements describing graphic details of the alleged sexual encounter.
– Statements of law enforcement based on multiple layers of hearsay which are not admissible at trial.
– Descriptions of medical tests which are subject to challenge.
– Identification of and statements attributed to potential witnesses not included in the witness list, and who may not even aware they are identified in the affidavits.
– Descriptions of conduct which is likely to be either irrelevant or inadmissible at trial.
– Statements which are attributed to the defendant which may or may not be admissible if challenged by the defendant at trial.
– Descriptions of items of evidence obtained after execution of the warrants and petition.