It’s El Paso County District Court Judge Gil­bert Martinez vs. open records.

The Denver Post - - NEWS -

In the case against Robert Dear Jr., who is ac­cused in the shoot­ing ram­page at a Colorado Springs Planned Par­ent­hood of­fice in Novem­ber, the pub­lic is still be­ing kept in the dark.

Un­for­tu­nately, El Paso County District Court Judge Gil­bert Martinez wants it to re­main that way. He is sup­press­ing in­for­ma­tion that is rou­tinely pro­vided in the vast ma­jor­ity of crim­i­nal cases in Colorado, in­clud­ing very se­ri­ous ones.

The news me­dia, in­clud­ing The Den­ver Post, re­quested that Martinez un­seal the ar­rest war­rant af­fi­davit and search war­rant af­fi­davits in the case for which Dear faces 179 felony charges, in­clud­ing eight counts of first- de­gree mur­der.

Dear is ac­cused of killing three peo­ple and wound­ing nine oth­ers on Nov. 27. The records have been sealed in­def­i­nitely.

The pub­lic knows a lot about the tragic events that day, but many of the de­tails that re­main un­known are im­por­tant not only to the com­mu­nity but to the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion around gun rights and abor­tion.

Dear ap­par­ently was fu­eled by an anti- abor­tion stance, based upon the tar­get of his at­tack and his own state­ments in court since. But do the af­fi­davits cite ad­di­tional ev­i­dence or mo­tives? And while Pres­i­dent Obama in­voked the tragedies of mass shoot­ings in tak­ing ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion on firearms, we still don’t know the type of gun used in this shoot­ing— or guns, for that mat­ter— or how Dear ob­tained his weaponry.

Martinez, in his Dec. 30 rul­ing deny­ing the re­quest for un­seal­ing the doc­u­ments, says courts nor­mally un seal war­rants af­ter a pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing or waiver of a hear­ing.

Ac­tu­ally, in al­most ev­ery crim­i­nal case, ar­rest af­fi­davits are re­leased im­me­di­ately af­ter a sus­pect is in cus­tody.

And search war­rant af­fi­davits are un­sealed not long af­ter the search is com­plete.

Martinez also noted that the case against Dear is still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion. How­ever, the pros­e­cu­tion al­ready has enough ev­i­dence to file 179 charges. And District At­tor­ney Dan May is not ob­ject­ing to un­seal­ing as long as the vic­tims’ pri­vacy is not com­pro­mised and aspects of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­main undis­closed.

Jus­tice works best when it is con­ducted in the open.

Even Dear him­self in court has yelled out to un­seal ev­ery­thing. But his de­fense at­tor­neys have de­manded se­crecy.

Judge Martinez or­dered a com­pe­tency hear­ing for Dear, which could take up to nine months to com­plete. It is likely the pub­lic won’t learn the of­fi­cial rea­sons for Dear’s ar­rest un­til a year af­ter the crime. This is ab­surd, es­pe­cially in a case where the ba­sic rea­sons for the ar­rest are ob­vi­ous to all.

The in­for­ma­tion in the doc­u­ments will not prej­u­dice po­ten­tial jurors, ham­per the case or be­smirch wit­nesses. But it is vi­tal to the preser­va­tion of an open ju­di­cial sys­tem.

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