Colo. Supreme Court: Prosecutorial misconduct docs can remain secret in death row case

The Colorado Independent: The Colorado Supreme Court today denied a petition from The Colorado Independent to unseal records about prosecutorial misconduct in the capital case against Sir Mario Owens, a death row inmate who was convicted of murdering a state lawmaker’s son.

The unanimous ruling may make it easier for Colorado courts to decide to block public access to court documents. That includes, evidently, records related to cases in which the death penalty is at issue and cases in which prosecutors are accused of wrongdoing, said Steve Zansberg, attorney for the Independent.

“These types of documents are the only way the press and public can gauge whether prosecutors and judges – officials who have enormous power over people’s lives – are serving ethically and fairly. By allowing these records to be shrouded in secrecy, this ruling will further erode confidence in Colorado’s criminal justice system and the public’s trust the judicial branch of our state government,” said Independent Editor Susan Greene.

The Independent is considering appealing today’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, as the state Supreme Court wrote, has never ruled on the matter of whether access to “all criminal justice records is a constitutionally guaranteed right belonging to the public at large.”

The statewide nonprofit news site filed an emergency petition in January to the state Supreme Court after District Court Judge Christopher Munch issued a 1,500-page order issued nine months ago in which Munch upheld Owens’ conviction and death sentence despite having found a pattern of misconduct by state prosecutors whom the judge found withheld evidence that might have helped Owens.

Visit The Colorado Independent for more.

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