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High court rejects media's request for motions in Diallo case

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    NMU         NEW YORK         Secret Courts         Oct 27, 2000    

High court rejects media’s request for motions in Diallo case

  • The New York Court of Appeals summarily dismissed the appeal of seven news media organizations, holding the case had no constitutional question.

New York’s highest court declined to hear an appeal by seven news organizations of a trial judge’s order sealing two pre-trial motions. The court summarily dismissed the appeal, stating “no substantial constitutional question was directly involved.”

The media’s appeal arose from the trial of four police officers who were accused of improperly shooting Amadou Diallo, an African immigrant. The defendants had filed a motion requesting potential exculpatory evidence from the prosecutors. The prosecutors had also filed a motion asking the court to admit into evidence previous shooting incidents by the officers. The trial judge sealed both motions.

Seven news organizations, the Albany Times-Union, New York Daily News, New York Post, The New York Times, the Associated Press, New York Law Journal and Newsday, filed an appeal in July arguing that the order violated their First Amendment rights. The intermediate appellate court affirmed the trial court’s sealing order last spring.

The media then appealed to the state’s highest appellate court, but the appeal was rejected Oct. 24. The court’s one-paragraph statement said merely that there was no substantial constitutional question involved.

Michael Grygiel, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the “precedents clearly imply that there is a constitutional right of public access to pre-trial motion papers.”

He also said the timeliness of the newspapers’ request made the ruling a disappointment.

“The unfortunate result of these decisions is that the press and public were denied access to pre-trial motion papers when it mattered the most; that is, when the public’s attention was alerted to the ongoing trial.”

(Daily News v. Teresi; Media Counsel: Michael Grygiel; McNamee, Lochner, Titus & Williams; Albany, N.Y.) AG

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