The state Supreme Court today denied The Colorado Independent‘s petition for a rehearing of its request to unseal records related to prosecutorial misconduct in the capital case against Sir Mario Owens.
The Independent is now considering whether to file a petition for review by the U.S. Supreme Court of the Colorado high court’s decision.
In originally denying the request for records to be unsealed, the court ruled June 11 that “unfettered access” to criminal justice records isn’t guaranteed by either the First Amendment or Colorado’s Constitution. The Independent sought a rehearing on the grounds that the court misunderstood the request, which was not for “unfettered access,” but rather access to four records in a particular case.
That case involves a motion from lawyers representing Owens — one of three death-row inmates in Colorado; he was convicted convicted and sentenced to death in 2008 for the killings of Vivian Wolfe and Javad Marshall-Fields — who had sought to disqualify District Attorney George Brauchler’s office from the case. Owens’s lawyers are seeking a new special prosecutor from outside the 18th Judicial District. Brauchler is now running for state attorney general.
The judge, Christopher Munch, found a pattern of prosecutorial misconduct by Brauchler’s officer, but still the motion was denied and remains sealed, along with a transcript of a hearing, Munch’s order, and all documentation related to it.
Judge Munch found that under Brauchler’s predecessor, former District Attorney Carol Chambers, prosecutors withheld evidence at Owens’s 2008 trial, and that the withholding of evidence continued after Brauchler took office in 2013, while Owens was appealing. The judge concluded that a jury likely still would have found Owens guilty even if prosecutors had turned over the withheld evidence.