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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

It's Rather Annoying This Took A State Supreme Court...

...to tell officials in Colorad that a criminal indictment is a public record, but there you go:

The Colorado Supreme Court struck a resounding blow for open records on Monday when it ordered a judge to release details of an indictment of an Aurora man suspected in the disappearance of his 6-year-old daughter.

It's a shame, however, that something that should have been an ordinary matter of public record had to go all the way to the state Supreme Court. Indictments routinely have been available for public inspection in Colorado as a matter of law and tradition.

Arapahoe District Attorney Carol Chambers was wrong to try to keep the details of the document sealed, and we're glad the Supreme Court made a logical decision in the case.

We're speaking, of course, of the Aarone Thompson case, and a ruling by Arapahoe County District Judge Mark Hannen to keep most of the details of the allegations against her father under seal. Prosecutors argued the indictment was filled with information too shocking for the public to see, and worried about the ability to hold a fair trial for Aaron Thompson, father of the missing girl.

The authors of the indictment created the problem when they filled it with what the Supreme Court called "exhaustive narratives" of the case, far exceeding the "essential facts" that must be included in a grand jury indictment.

But the Court made it clear that the decision to load the indictment with "excessive" detail didn't give the court the right to keep it secret.

The matter got to the state Supreme Court only because of the efforts by The Denver Post and The Associated Press, which took legal action to force the question to a higher authority.

More here.

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