DA’s Office agrees for Pfister files to be unsealed

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times

The 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office has sided with Aspen’s two daily newspapers in their legal bids to release the affidavit that led to the arrest of three suspects in the February slaying of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

A six-page filing in Pitkin County District Court, introduced Thursday by the District Attorney’s Office, argues for the unveiling of the remaining sealed documents in the case, which includes the affidavit in support of the arrest warrant.

Opposing the release of the records are Dr. William Styler, 66, a former Front Range anesthesiologist who confessed to acting alone when he used a hammer to bludgeon Pfister while she was sleeping on the night of Feb. 24.

As part of a plea deal, Styler admitted guilt to second-degree murder and was immediately sentenced to 20 years in state prison on June 20, the same day first-degree murder charges were dropped against his wife, Nancy Styler, 62, and Carbondale resident Katherine Carpenter, 56.

In the meantime, legal wrangling has ensued over the release of records in the case.

District Judge Gail Nichols previously had ruled that the affidavits would be unsealed following a preliminary hearing set the last week of June. Because of Styler’s confession, the proceeding was canceled, but the affidavits have been closed to public consumption.

Along with William Styler, Carpenter has opposed the release of the affidavits.

In Thursday’s filing, prosecutors contended that Carpenter’s effort to keep sealing the documents lacks legal basis because Carpenter’s attorneys, the day she was set free from the Pitkin County Jail, played the 911 call and shared photos of the crime scene to the media.

Likewise, because the case is effectively closed, there no longer is a basis to keep the entire case sealed, prosecutors said.

“Mr. Styler has pleaded guilty and has been sentenced and the remaining cases against the other two defendants have been dismissed,” the district attorney’s filing says. “There are no pending trials involving the death of Nancy Pfister. Thus, this court’s sole justification for sealing or redacting portions of Mr. Styler’s file prior to the previously scheduled hearing, i.e., to ‘protect the defendants’ right to a fair trial by an impartial jury in Pitkin County,’ no longer exists.”

Carpenter’s attorneys also have filed a separate civil action seeking to keep all of her arrests records under seal. In Thursday’s filing, prosecutors said they would be objecting to that, as well. A hearing on the matter is set for Aug. 11.