GateHouse Media objects to marathon bombing trial secrecy

Dr. Q

By Michael Gagne
Herald News Staff Reporter

Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

BOSTON — GateHouse Media Inc., the parent company of several Massachusetts-based community newspapers — including The Herald News, the Patriot Ledger and the MetroWest Daily News — on Wednesday submitted a letter to federal district court objecting that the public docket maintained in the criminal case against Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is missing entries.

According to the letter, “a review of the docket sheet for this case [United States v. Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev] indicates that numerous entries have not even been listed.”

“Wide swaths of court records have been omitted in their entirety from the docket listings,” the letter states. “The incomplete public docket sheet maintained in this case … does not accurately reflect the materials on file with the Court. As a result, the Newspapers’ constitutionally protected newsgathering and reporting efforts have been frustrated.”

The letter further points out that “only 27 of a total of 69 numbered court filings are available to the press and public,” and notes that at least 42 court filings are missing completely from the docket sheet, “as if they do not exist.”

“The perception of judicial integrity is enhanced when court records are readily accessible to, not secreted away from, the public,” said attorney Michael J. Grygiel, who submitted the letter for GateHouse Media.

“Numerous entries appear to have been omitted from the public docket sheet in this important case,” Grygiel said. “The omissions apparently include motions that have been filed under seal, without notice to the press and public that impoundment was occurring, as constitutional procedures require.”

The missing entries include a sealed motion that was the subject of an electronic order issued on May 20, 2013. Referred to in the order as “30 Sealed Motion,” it was granted in part by the court.

“However, the listed docket entries nowhere include an entry numbered 30 that was evidently the subject of the Court’s order on May 20, 2013, let alone indicate that it was a motion filed under seal. Nor do they indicate whether either party electronically filed a motion for impoundment” as required by court rules, the letter reads.

The letter states that the public has “a presumptive First Amendment right to inspect and copy judicial documents.” That right “ensures that proceedings are fairly conducted, and allows the public to know that the system is working properly. These concerns take on heightened importance in a prominent case such as this, where public education and the perception of fairness are critical.”

The omission of filings leaves the press “without a meaningful mechanism by which to find the documents necessary to learn what has actually transpired in this Court in this case,” according to the letter.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is accused of perpetrating the April 15, 2013, bombings near the finish line of the Boston Marathon with his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The two explosions killed three people and injured more than 200 others. On April 18, Federal Bureau of Investigations officials released photographs of the pair, identifying them as suspects in the bombings.

In the events that followed, the pair allegedly killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer, carjacked a Mercedes Benz and led police on a chase and shootout throughout Cambridge and Watertown. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died that night from injuries sustained when he was run over by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found the next day hiding under a boat in the backyard of a Watertown residence. He has since received a court hearing during his hospital recovery from injuries sustained in the shootout with police. Tsarnaev also appeared in a pretrial hearing federal district court on July 10, where he pleaded not guilty to 30 charges, which include use of a weapon of mass destruction. He is scheduled to appear in court again in September.

This article was originally published by The Herald News under the title “GateHouse Media files letter objecting to incomplete docket in Tsarnaev case.” It has been republished under a Creative Commons license per Herald News policy. Follow the link to back to see a .pdf format copy of the complaint.

One Response to “GateHouse Media objects to marathon bombing trial secrecy”

  • Dr. Q Says:

    The court case isn’t that only aspect of this event that has been affected by government secrecy. Members of Congress have said that the FBI refuses to cooperate with their attempts to investigate the bombing. See here for the most recent example.

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