Judge lifts order sealing Tucson shooting records

Records were sealed to ensure Loughner’s right to fair trial

By Jacques Billeaud
Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A judge has lifted his order that prevented the release of investigation records in the Tucson shooting rampage that killed six people and wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords two years ago.

The order signed Monday by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns and released Tuesday grants a motion by the Arizona Daily Star, a Tucson newspaper.

Burns sealed the records to ensure Jared Loughner’s right to a fair trial. But Burns said Loughner’s guilty plea ends the need to keep the records sealed.

It’s now up to the Pima County Sheriff’s Office to respond to media requests for records.

Prosecutors didn’t object to releasing the information.

But Judy Clarke, a California-based attorney for Loughner, urged Burns to recognize “privacy interests of the witnesses and victims, including the defendant’s family.”

At a hearing last week, she added that “records of this nature are not typically publicly available in a federal criminal action” and “a driving concern for federal oversight in such cases is the need to protect defendants prosecuted for such sensational crimes from harm or potential public backlash.”

Loughner, 24, pleaded guilty to 19 federal charges and was transported back to a federal prison medical facility in Springfield, Mo., where he has been treated for schizophrenia.

Loughner was sentenced in November to seven consecutive life sentences, plus 140 years, for the Jan. 8, 2011, shootings that killed six people and wounded 13, including Giffords, at an event outside a Tucson grocery store.

Arizona’s chief federal judge and a 9-year-old girl were among those killed in the rampage. Giffords was left partially blind with a paralyzed right arm and brain injury. She resigned from Congress last year.

Star Publishing Company, publisher of the Arizona Daily Star newspaper in Tucson, is seeking the dissolution of a protective order keeping the Pima County sheriff from releasing the material. The protective order was to ensure Loughner’s right to a fair trial.

Burns allowed Star Publishing to intervene in a case seeking the release of investigate materials last week and said “the court is inclined to agree ... that the protective order should be vacated.”


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