Steamboat Today (Steamboat Springs): It was a First Amendment victory when District Judge Shelley Hill ruled March 16 that the court should not have closed a Jan. 26 court hearing that outlined the plea deal offered to Miguel Diaz-Martinez, a 60-year-old man charged with 41 felonies and accused of exchanging drugs for sex with underage girls, by the District Attorney’s Office.
Hill sided with the newspaper and ordered the transcripts released to the public, as requested by Steamboat Pilot & Today. In making her ruling, Hill said, “once the public is excluded, that First Amendment right has been abridged.” She went on to say that, without freedom of the press and without public scrutiny, government, including the judicial branch and trials, “could easily become secret proceedings where fundamental fairness could always be suspect.”
As Hill pointed out in court, there will always be a clash between the public’s right to know as outlined in the First Amendment and a person’s right to a fair trial under the Sixth Amendment, but with Barkey, it seems as if this divide runs a little deeper.
The district attorney has established a pattern of attempting to keep records out of the public eye in the course of his investigations. Sometimes, his actions are justified, but other times, he is attempting to seal records or keep proceedings closed when, by law, under the Colorado Open Records Act, those documents or proceedings are public.
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