The Colorado Independent: The Colorado Independent has turned to the state Supreme Court for help in our fight to unseal records about prosecutorial misconduct in a death penalty case.
Earlier this week, we filed an emergency petition in response to a lower court’s ruling that continues hiding from public view court records about wrongdoing in the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s office. Retired Senior District Court Judge Christopher Munch gave no legal reasoning for his decision to keep sealing those documents, and we’re asking the Supreme Court to require him to do so or to lift the seal.
For The Independent, the petition is a Hail Mary in our quest for details about misconduct by prosecutors under District Attorney George Brauchler’s and his predecessor’s watch in the case against Sir Mario Owens, a convicted murderer who is one of three men on Colorado’s death row. The DA’s office has been found by judges to have cut ethical corners in prosecuting Owens, and we’re seeking the details, as well as records on file in the court in which prosecutors justified their actions. Based on those justifications, the judge to decide not to disqualify that office from proceeding with the case.
For the public, Coloradans’ ability to hold prosecutors and judges to account pivots on the success of The Independent’s petition.
“How can the public know that the criminal justice system is working like it should without access to court records, especially when those records involve something as consequential as a death penalty conviction?” says Jeff Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. “Access to court records is crucial for the public to hold the system accountable, and there must be compelling, well-articulated reasons for records to be sealed.”
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