Colo. Supreme Court denies motion to open files of death-row inmates

UPDATE: It took only a few hours after Thursday’s filing for the Colorado Supreme Court to deny the lawyers’ motion for reconsideration.


The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition (CFOIC) has joined other organizations in supporting a request that the Colorado Supreme Court reconsider opening the case files of two men on death row.

In June, lawyers for Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray asked the Supreme Court to allow public access to the files, which were sealed six years ago by an Arapahoe County District Court judge. The Supreme Court entered an order Sept. 3, granting the petition to review the case and inviting amicus curiae briefs on “Whether there is a constitutional right of access to court records in criminal cases, including transcripts of an open trial, and if so, whether the district court’s continued enforcement of sealing and redaction orders entered before trial violates such a right.” However, the Court withdrew the order two days later, stating that it had been entered as a result of a “clerical error.” Three justices had voted to take the case, but four votes are needed.

The two convicted death-row defendants are now asking for a reconsideration of that ruling. A letter co-signed by the CFOIC asserts: “The complete sealing of all transcripts, all exhibits, and the registries of actions in the Owens and Ray cases is not consistent with a free and open society, and threatens basic and fundamental liberties. Allowing these cases to remain cloaked in secrecy and hidden from public review and scrutiny will undermine public confidence in both the government and the judicial process.

“The public interest demands that matters involving the government’s decision to execute two of its citizens be transparent and open. Public confidence cannot be maintained if our government and judicial system operate behind closed doors.”

Among other organizations signing the letter were the NAACP, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the First Amendment Coalition and the Colorado Press Association. Monica Owens, mother of Sir Mario Owens, also signed it.

A motion for reconsideration filed Thursday by lawyers for Owens is available here.

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