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Monday, December 03, 2007

Should cold case files be open for public review?

If a cold case has been inactive, does the public have a right to see the files to determine for themselves whether or not they think the police are doing their job?

I believe that if the victim's family feels nothing is being done to move the case forward, then they should be the ones who ultimately decide whether or not to open the files. The crime is against society so shouldn't society have a right to see what's being done (or not being done) in a murder investigation?

If a case has gone unsolved for decades, it's not like the police are going to lose a hot lead. In fact, they may even GET a few leads by releasing the information.

What do you think?

Fight over release of cold case files goes to
high court

Associated Press
Published on: 12/03/07

Lawyers tangled in the Georgia Supreme Court on Monday about a case that could force police departments to release documents in unsolved crimes, a move which authorities said would undermine their investigations.

The argument deals with the police use of the term "pending investigation" to refuse media requests for public information, a term that open records lawyers say is being abused by authorities to withhold public information.

Similar squabbles between media and police over documents play out throughout the state. The court's decision ultimately could provide a clear answer on what information police would be required to release in unsolved crimes.

Jennifer Stone was raped and murdered in 1992 in her Athens apartment, and there has never been any arrest in the case. The Athens Banner-Herald newspaper challenged the law after it requested records of the investigation under the Open Records Act in 2005 but was rebuffed.

Police said they refused the request because the case is still being investigated, pointing to records showing that Stone's DNA is being processed into a computer database every two weeks. The department also contends that the release of certain details could "poison" the investigation, regardless of how old the case is.

"Why should the mere passage of time – or the luck of a criminal or the skill of a criminal – weaken the state's ability to prosecute this case?" asked Bill Berryman, the county's attorney.

He said releasing details of the Stone investigation would be "destructive."

"Witnesses could be intimidated, statements could change, the criminal could have knowledge he otherwise wouldn't have," he said.

The newspaper argued police should not be allowed to claim a case is pending if there's no active investigation and contended that keeping the files secret prevents the public from scrutinizing the investigation. That could shield the revelation of police corruption or incompetence, attorney David Hudson said.

"How would anyone know unless someone was allowed to look into the documents?" he asked.

Maritime Missy


At 12:18 AM, Blogger Sharron Prior website said...

I would LOVE to comment on this subject!

but i'm 50/50 on both ways...

Doreen Prior

At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Bill W said...

Oh I agree absolutely! If the police are not active in an investigation, the citizens should have a turn. It's the person who wants to do the job who always does it best.

At 3:31 PM, Anonymous Maritime Missy said...

DOREEN...share your comments!!

Initially, I was 50/50 too but then I turfed out the argument for the prosecutors. It would be nice if we could guarantee that the prosecutors' case wouldn't be compromised...but since they can't guarantee they'll even get us a SUSPECT...why worry about jeopardizing a non-existant case?

They're more worried about their incompetence being discovered than solving the case or prosecuting it.

I say...Open the files on all 10-year-old + cold cases (with the families' permission of course).

BILL ...good point. Jobs don't get done efficiently if nobody is interested in doing them.

At 10:41 PM, Blogger Sharron Prior website said...

Yes Bill, I believe that is the case!

1. If a family feels that the detectives are actively working/interested in the case..then it should stay behind closed doors.
(I do think that maybe small details could be let out to the public eyes...example: clothing/material found at a crime sceen back and white should be photographed in color)
But as you all know that detectives have certain evidence that NEEDS to be hidden...something that ONLY the murderers would know...

In some cases if the family beleives that the detectives are Not working on the case.and NEVER HAVE....Then by all means the case should be public.

Doreen Prior

At 1:37 AM, Anonymous Bill W said...

Doreen - I have to agree with you on that some secrets need to be kept. It is fortunate for us that Friends of Debbie Key and the Carrboro Police Dept are on such good terms. I realize that some of my fellow bloggers are not as fortunate.

At 1:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ten years seems like more than adequate time to give law enforcement their shot at it.

As for your previous question, "Is it too late to get a public enquiry into Theresa's death?" I certainly hope not.


At 1:45 AM, Anonymous bill w said...

Next November will be the 30 year anniversary for Theresa. I'm interested in seeing how that will be observed.
November 3 is also the date of the murder of Michelle Young, who had her 1 year anniversary just recently.

At 3:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's hope that Theresa's case is solved by that 30th anniversary.


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