Saturday, November 12, 2011
Brian Terry case sealed in federal court
“Yes, the case is sealed,” Debra Hartman, spokeswoman from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego, said in an e-mail.
When a case is sealed, the public and the media cannot see evidence, hear testimony or learn about court rulings and arguments.
Terry and members of his tactical unit got into a midnight shootout on Dec. 14 with a group of suspected banditos near Rio Rico. Terry died. A suspect named Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, who suffered a gunshot wound, was arrested at the scene.
Here is what has been made public to date:
Osorio-Arellanes was charged initially with illegal entry in a case that is published on PACER, an online database of federal court filings. But that case was terminated when Osorio-Arellanes and several unidentified co-defendants were secretly indicted April 20 for murder by a federal grand jury.
Three weeks later, a judge temporarily unsealed the indictment, which lists co-defendants whose names were blacked out because they had not been apprehended. Since then, the entire case has been invisible. A clerk at the federal court in Tucson confirmed that the file is sealed, including the judge’s reason for closing it. Even the docket is hidden from public view, so a search for U.S. vs. Osorio-Arellanes turns up no record of the homicide prosecution.
Peter Scheer, a lawyer-journalist who is executive director at the non-profit First Amendment Coalition for open government, said blacking out a high-profile case is an “extraordinary step” that pre-empts the public’s right to monitor America’s legal system.
“The risks of abuse are very high,” he said.
Arizona Republic News
Posted by Investigations at 09:51