U.S. Supreme Court denies The Indy’s request for review in First Amendment case

The Colorado Independent: The United States Supreme Court has denied The Colorado Independent’s request for review of a Colorado Supreme Court decision to allow records in a death penalty case to remain under seal, a decision that may make it easier for judges in the state to block public access to court documents.

The decision, announced online early Tuesday morning, means that a unanimous June ruling against The Independent by the Colorado court stands, and certain 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 — will remain sealed.

“We knew going in that this would be a long shot,” said Susan Greene, editor of The Independent. “But our news team and board are proud to have stood up and challenged the Colorado Judicial Branch’s secrecy habit and questioned what it seems to interpret as its unbridled authority to shroud from public view whichever records it chooses, regardless of the reason.”

Votes on whether to grant petitions are not made public, so it’s not known if the Supreme Court was split or united when it elected not to take up The Independent’s case. Its decision, which was posted with no discussion or statement, does not necessarily mean it agrees with the Colorado Supreme Court.

But odds the justices would ever take up the case were always long; about 8,000 petitions are filed each year asking the U.S. Supreme Court to grant writ of certiorari — in other words, to review a lower court’s decision — and only about 70 are granted, according to Adam Feldman, a Supreme Court scholar and analyst who founded the blog Empirical SCOTUS.

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