Editorial: Access restrictions in Blagg murder trial a bitter pill

The Daily Sentinel: Jury selection began Wednesday in Michael Blagg’s second murder trial after a judge made a big ruling last week defining the parameters of public access to the proceedings.

Judges have to weigh the public’s right to know against a defendant’s right to a fair trial. It’s a delicate balance that usually results in some restrictions on the press in high-profile criminal cases. The scope of restrictions in this case is disappointing for Mesa County residents, who not only saw the case transferred to Jefferson County on fair-trial considerations, but are footing an expensive bill for a second try at justice.

Mesa County Chief Deputy District Attorney Trish Mahre rightfully supported a request for “expanded media coverage” — permission to film, record and photograph Blagg’s new trial.

But, as the Sentinel’s Gabrielle Porter reported, First Judicial District Judge Tamara S. Russell denied that request from two media outlets and put other restrictions in place which exceed even those imposed during the 2015 trial of the Aurora theater shooter.

We’re not in the habit of questioning judicial wisdom of such matters. This is a bitter pill to swallow, especially in light of persistent transparency challenges emanating from the judicial branch. But there is merit to the judge’s logic, which we’ll explain.

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