As we head into 2017, the SPJ Headliners Board recently took a look back on a few of the open records cases recently supported by various media coalitions.
In all these examples, our SPJ group joined forces with other news outlets to fund legal actions to keep hearings public, or to fight for records releases that keep the public informed and hold the powerful to account. That is, after all, the mission of the SPJ.
WEST VALLEY CITY
UPDATE: The Media coalition won its motion, with the judge reversing her decision in late December. Find out more.
Three teens are facing charges in connection to the death of West Valley City Police Officer Cody Brotherson. The teens allegedly triggered a police chase while driving a stolen car and hit the officer as he attempted to lay down spike strips. Brotherson died on impact.
Prosecutors successfully got charges against the teens sealed, so in addition to that being secret, the public has no way of knowing what the “teens are being accused of, what evidence exists against them and how the court system ultimately punishes, exonerates or tries to rehabilitate them,” as written by SPJ President McKenzie Romero in a Dec. 10 Deseret News story.
Three hearings on that case were scheduled for this week. Want to join the media coalition fighting to unseal these records? Email McKenzie Romero at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Siale Angilau was shot and killed by a U.S. marshal at the Salt Lake City federal courthouse in 2014 after allegedly charging at a testifying witness with a sharp object.
Video footage of the incident exists but U.S. District Court for Utah and the U.S. Marshals Service have denied journalists’ requests to release the footage to the public. Angilau’s family filed a wrongful death suit and a media coalition recently filed a joint motion to intervene in the lawsuit in an effort to obtain the video.
Want to help? Email Salt Lake Tribune reporter Nate Carlisle at email@example.com.
Osa Masina, a 19-year-old football player at University of Southern California, is facing multiple rape charges after a woman filed reports with police alleging he sexually assaulted her on two occasions.
Attorneys for the woman who filed the suit made motions to close the courtroom during her testimony. The judge ordered the hearing be kept open after media coalition and its attorney filed a motion to keep the hearing open to the public.
The media coalition argued that such testimony in a preliminary hearing is “critical” to the judicial process.
UNION MIDDLE SCHOOL
A 14-year-old boy is facing charges related to a schoolyard shooting after police say he and another boy met for a fight after school Oct. 25 on Union Middle School grounds.
The boy was charged in juvenile court. His attorneys made a motion to close all hearings related to the case to the public and media but withdrew that request after a media coalition challenged it.
According to the Deseret News: “Attorney Austin Riter, who represented the media, said following the hearing that state lawmakers have specified that the public has an interest and a right to know what happens in hearings related to serious juvenile crimes.”
These battles are important for all of us. Please support the fight for a more transparent government by becoming an SPJ Headliners member.
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