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Media seek access to records in slaying of college professors

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  1. Court Access

    NMU         NEW HAMPSHIRE/VERMONT         Secret Courts         Mar 14, 2001    

Media seek access to records in slaying of college professors

  • News organizations ask the highest courts in two states to unseal search warrant affidavits and returns under open records law.

While the murder investigation into the death of two Dartmouth professors continues, the fight to keep documents related to the case open reached two state supreme courts.

The Vermont Supreme Court on March 7 listened to lawyers from several news organizations challenge a lower court’s decision that would keep sealed the information from warrants used to search the defendants’ homes, including what was found in the homes. The court has yet to rule in this case.

Meanwhile, media lawyers in New Hampshire will ask that state’s Supreme Court to release documents that defense attorneys argue should be kept confidential. The court has not scheduled a date to hear the appeal. A lower court ruled in late February to release some heavily edited documents, which have been released except for a few still under seal pending the decision of the state’s highest court.

Robert Tulloch, 17, and James Parker, 16, both of Chelsea, Vt., are charged in the stabbing deaths of Dartmouth College professors Half and Susanne Zantop in their Hanover, N.H., home on Jan. 27.

“The attorney general thinks they released too much and we say they did not release enough,” said Gregory V. Sullivan, who represents the (Manchester) Union Leader.

It is not known exactly what is contained in the edited portions of the released documents.

The attorneys general in both Vermont and New Hampshire have said that releasing the documents would interfere with the ongoing investigation because the intense media focus could intimidate potential witnesses and give them information they could use to tailor their testimony. “(The attorneys general) have the burden of proving that and they didn’t do so,” Sullivan said regarding the lower court’s decision to not release all the documents.

The news organizations have relied on the states’ open records law to support the release of the documents to the public.

(New Hampshire v. Tulloch, New Hampshire v. Parker; Media Counsel: Gregory V. Sullivan, Union Leader, Malloy & Sullivan, Manchester, N.H.; In re Tulloch (Vt.); Media Counsel: Robert B. Hemley, Gravel and Shea, Burlington, Vermont ) EH


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