Thursday, October 21, 2010

News organizations seek Dugard records

The Associated Press reports that it and five other news organizations are seeking to have a judge unseal grand jury transcripts and other documents in the Jaycee Lee Dugard kidnapping case.

In a motion filed Tuesday, the AP, Sacramento Bee, Hearst, Gannett, LA Times and the Bay Area News Group are asking El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Douglas Phimister to unseal the documents.

In the motion, attorney Karl Olson says "there is no justification for sealing any records" in the case against the Garridos.

In a lawsuit earlier this year, Olson successfully forced state corrections officials to release Phillip Garrido's parole records.

The Garridos are accused of kidnapping Dugard in 1991, when she was 11 and holding her captive in their backyard until she was found in August 2009.

“Sealed records and closed hearings detract from that appearance of fairness which is so essential to our criminal justice system,” said Olson. “There has already been publicity about the basic facts of this case, and access to court records will only ensure that coverage is accurate and not based on speculation.”

Jackie Davenport, the court’s assistant executive officer, said Phimister will meet behind closed doors with the lawyers in the case during a Nov. 4 hearing to discuss the media’s request to unseal documents. according to the Gannett-owned Reno Gazette Journal.

Olson said the media and the public have a right to be heard on their exclusion from the case. He also said there is no justification for the ruling.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that “openness ... enhances both the basic fairness of the criminal trial and the appearance of fairness so essential to public confidence in the system,” Olson said in the motion.

“We respectfully submit that there is no justification for sealing any records in this case, but even if a small portion of some document might arguably be redacted, the wholesale sealing at issue here is not narrowly tailored” as court rules require, he said.

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