EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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October 29, 2013

Newspapers fight sealing of documents in murder case


Such concerns as privacy have not been held by courts to be sufficient grounds for withholding the materials, Caruso argued. And if there are law enforcement interests in withholding certain details, such as the identity of witnesses, a judge is required to tailor any impoundment to restrict only that information.

“If disclosure of some portion of the records could materially impact any ongoing investigation, then those portions can be redacted and the remainder made available to the public for inspection,” Caruso argued.

Moreover, Judge Lauranzano failed to follow the Massachusetts Uniform Rules on Impoundment Procedure, he argued. Those rules, which require that notice be given to interested third parties and that a judge make written findings, have been in place in civil proceedings for many years. In 2011, they were also held by the Supreme Judicial Court to apply to criminal cases.

While a number of details have emerged in the case, they have come from law enforcement sources speaking on condition of anonymity, not from other official sources or the District Attorney’s office, which on Wednesday refused even to confirm that the death was the result of a stabbing, or where it took place.

Blodgett also announced to the press on Wednesday that the court proceeding in the case would take place in a closed juvenile court, but that turned out to not be the case after discussions between the presiding judges of the Salem juvenile and district courts and prosecutors, and Chism was arraigned in Salem District Court.

In another departure from normal procedure, however, only a three-paragraph “statement of facts” was included in the public case file, rather than the full police report typically required by a clerk to make a probable-cause determination for charges to be issued.

Joining in the newspapers' efforts are attorneys for the Associated Press and GateHouse Media Inc.

A hearing on the request was scheduled for yesterday afternoon, but was delayed after Blodgett’s office objected on procedural grounds. The hearing has been rescheduled for Friday.




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