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People v. Ralph

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  1. Freedom of Information

Case Number: 2021CR2072

Court: District Court, Arapahoe County, Colorado

Clients: KDVR Fox31/Nexstar Media Group, Inc., KUSA 9News, KMGH The Denver Channel, KCNC, CBS4 News, The Associated Press, The Colorado Broadcasters Association, and the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition

Response to Defendant’s Objection Filed: Oct. 14, 2021

Background: In September 2021, Shawn Ralph, a police officer with the Sheridan Police Department, was arrested and charged with felony assault in connection with an incident in which he allegedly placed a woman in a chokehold during an arrest.

The officer’s arrest generated headlines in the Colorado news media, and a coalition of news outlets sought access to all unedited body-worn camera and dash camera recordings of the incident that led to Ralph’s arrest. On Oct. 5, however, Ralph objected to the release of the recordings, arguing that disclosure of the bodycam footage would prejudice his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial.

On behalf of the news media coalition, Reporters Committee attorneys responded to the officer’s objection, arguing in an Oct. 14 court filing that all of the unedited bodycam and dash camera footage of the incident should be publicly released under a relatively new Colorado law that requires the public disclosure of audio and video recordings documenting incidents in which there are accusations of officer misconduct. The court filing also disputes Ralph’s claim that disclosure of the recordings would have a prejudicial effect on his constitutional right to a fair trial.

Quote: “The public’s right to know whether the public officials tasked with protecting their communities are doing so safely is a matter of significant public concern,” Rachael Johnson, the Reporters Committee’s Local Legal Initiative attorney in Colorado, wrote in the media coalition’s response to Ralph’s objection to releasing the bodycam and dash camera recordings.

Update: On Oct. 18, 2021, the Arapahoe County Court in Centennial, Colorado, ordered the release of bodycam footage, holding that there was no evidence the defendant presented that would put his fair trial rights in jeopardy. The ruling came less than two weeks after a judge in Weld County, Colorado, ordered the disclosure of the bodycam recordings in People v. Amick, a separate case in which RCFP attorneys represented a news media coalition.

Filings:

2021-10-05: Defendant’s objection to release of video and/or audio recording

2021-10-14: Media coalition’s response to the defendant’s objection to bar disclosure of incident recording footage

2021-10-18: Court order