Defense objects to unsealing murder suspect’s file
GLENWOOD SPRINGS In response to a motion to unseal a murder suspect’s court file, the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office didn’t object while the defense argued that one-sided, irresponsible reporting would damage the fairness of a trial.District Attorney Martin Beeson wrote in a response to the motion, on behalf of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, that he believes unsealing Jesus Hernandez de Jesus’ court file would not harm the integrity of the ongoing investigation or the case as a whole.District Judge Daniel Petre is set to hear arguments on the motion Wednesday.Hernandez de Jesus, 33, has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with a June 25 shooting in West Glenwood Springs.Beeson’s response says sealing the file was appropriate in order to ensure the integrity of the investigation, but that the court could take other steps to protect the defendant’s fair trial rights.He adds that public defenders regional office head Tina Fang made incriminating statements about the homicide victim in court. Some of Fang’s statements included stating the homicide victim was a “gangbanger,” was “known to carry a gun,” and that he “raped” the defendant’s wife.Police suspect that Hernandez de Jesus shot to death his 20-year-old nephew, Ricardo Navarrete-Prudencio, the night of June 25 at the Ponderosa Lodge. Police have said Hernandez de Jesus shot and killed his nephew because of an affair with Hernandez de Jesus’ wife in Florida. Hernandez de Jesus is also scheduled to appear in court Aug. 1.Beeson’s response says it seemed like an attempt to get prejudicial statements published in a newspaper to help her client.”From the standpoint of the people, it is better that all information be unsealed and made available for public inspection rather than leave the citizens of this district with a distorted view of the case,” the response says.Beeson also said in the response that the initial order of the court “was an appropriate step to take in order to safeguard the integrity of the investigation” and to ensure both parties’ right to a fair trial. The response continued, saying that now that the initial investigation is over “the court can continue to safeguard the right of both parties to receive a fair trial even with the unsealing of the file.”Fang and public defender Garth McCarty argue that a case cited in the motion to unseal does not apply. Their response says the case is different because it deals with denying access to a courtroom, not a court file. It says unsealing the file would not provide more information than has already been made public.The motion says the Post Independent’s “pervasive, one-sided and prejudicial” reporting will harm the fairness of the trial. The response says the “Post Independent has not engaged in the balanced, fair-reporting one might expect. … The authors of said articles do not seek to simply report on the facts of this case, but rather create an environment of drama and community hysteria amongst its readership,” it says.Post Independent managing editor Dale Shrull, who also wrote two articles related to the shooting, disagreed.”Our reporting on this story was solid, accurate and provided readers with facts and details of a tragic shooting in Glenwood Springs. We have to rely on certain sources to provide us with information. The fact that the file has been sealed has limited our ability to acquire information,” he said. “This was a dramatic story; we did not create the drama, we simply reported it.”Chris Beall, legal counsel for the Post Independent, filed a motion on July 20 to reverse Judge Denise Lynch’s order sealing Hernandez de Jesus’ court file. Beall received copies of prosecution and defense responses July 25. Lynch was the first judge to hear the case.Beall’s motion argues that the media has a First Amendment right to view the typically public documents in Hernandez de Jesus’ court file.It argues that it can’t be shown that unsealing the file presents the requisite “clear and present danger” to the fairness of a trial. It also says it can’t be shown that no reasonable alternative, like jury instructions or a change of venue, exists to protect Hernandez de Jesus’ fair trial rights.In a June 28 hearing when the file was sealed, more than one media outlet already had obtained information in an arrest affidavit and search warrant affidavits.
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