Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Censorship The Courts

Judge Closes Online Access To Info On Civil Case 64

Posted by kdawson
from the need-not-to-know dept.
Ponca City, We love you writes "The Tulsa World reports that Judge Linda Morrissey has ordered online access to information about a civil case locked up on the court website for the duration of a retrial out of concern that jurors might access earlier trial information and be prejudiced. The first trial, which focused on a death amid allegations of negligent medical care, wound up in a mistrial because jurors did not reach a verdict. Lawyers involved in the second trial agreed to the order because they were concerned that jurors could be influenced by getting information from a record of events in a case filed in February 2007 that could be inadmissible as trial evidence. Morrissey routinely gives strong admonitions to jurors that they not search the Internet for information about a case being tried. But not everyone agrees with the judge's closing of court records. The lawyers involved in the trial 'don't represent the public's interest in those records,' says Joey Senat, an associate professor of journalism at Oklahoma State University who writes for FOI Oklahoma, adding that what might be convenient to trial participants does not outweigh 'the public's right or need to know.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Judge Closes Online Access To Info On Civil Case

Comments Filter:
  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @08:18AM (#32083476)
    FTFS

    online access to information about a civil case locked up on the court website for the duration of a retrial

    Only for the duration of the retrial. Surely people have other things to lookup on the internet besides this case while this is being retried, don't they?

    • by Bugamn (1769722)
      What? Something more important than an data that is forbidden to be seen? Impossible!
    • by kenj0418 (230916)

      Also FTFS:

      online access to information about a civil case locked up on the court website for the duration of a retrial

      This implies that anyone (who is not a juror on this case) can go to the courthouse and review the case history as needed -- just like they would have had to before the online access was available. I think disallowing online access for the duration of the trial is a pretty reasonable restriction. It doesn't prevent anyone (except the jurors) from seeing anything - it only makes it less convenient.

      HOWEVER, the TFS is misleading, as the TFA says "an order that would remove the docket sheet from th

      • I think disallowing online access for the duration of the trial is a pretty reasonable restriction.

        Agreed. But as an aside, I think too much tends to be made of the public's so-called "right to know". Matters of public record like court cases are perfectly admissible, while prurient spying on individuals is an entirely different issue.
  • by corbettw (214229) <corbettw@@@yahoo...com> on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @08:23AM (#32083512) Journal

    The judge is there to make sure all parties get a fair trial. In this case, that concern outweighs the need for public oversight of trial proceedings. It's not like the records are being expunged, afterall.

    • And it is not like the public can't oversee the current trial. This should be done for every trial it applies to.

    • by Aladrin (926209) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @08:31AM (#32083562)

      "Public oversight" comes after the trial, anyhow. During the trial, it can't do anything but mess things up.

      After the trial, it can reverse a wrongful conviction.

      In no case could it ever convict someone who was wrong found 'not guilty'.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      But if the jury is made of people too dumb to be able to correctly understand that some informations are not reliable even when warned against them, there is a problem in its composition, too. If the judge wants to warn against some information, he just has to add informations and warnings. There will be truth and lies mixed in the speech of lawyers that the jury will hear. Lawyers are professional liars. You ask a jury to find the truth between lawyers' speech and you don't trust them to sort good and bad
      • by corbettw (214229)

        The judge doesn't want the jury rereading the arguments from the first case. Which makes sense, because that trial resulted in a mistrial; I'm sure she's trying to avoid the same thing happening this time.

  • ...it's impossible to keep archives [archive.org] of old web pages, or for anyone to download and mirror content.

    Now jurors are more likely to know that there's information out there that they're "not allowed" to read. Which is fine - as a juror I might do as I'm told to prevent my becoming prejudiced - unless I've just found out that the information has been hidden from everyone, in which case I might consider it my duty to read the information anyway.

    • by BobMcD (601576)

      Disobeying a judge is contempt of court, no matter how clever it may seem to be at the time.

      • Proving that a juror disobeyed the judge, or indeed that a whole jury based its decision by a manner other than as the judge directed, is fairly hard. Which is good, because it's another check on government abuse, and abuse by a juror is by immediate consequence of the jury system less systematic than abuse by government.

        (Of course, every human is biased and prejudiced and puts his own spin on the case; he is a liar or in deep denial if he claims otherwise. The pragmatic aim is for the court and 11 strang

  • by alen (225700) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @08:27AM (#32083544)

    i had jury duty a few years ago for a criminal drug case. we weren't supposed to look up any information on the internet about the case either. only use what we heard in the courtroom. even though this was a small time drug dealer.

    i was curious and found that the NYPD has arrest records online. the guy on trial had 10 or so other cases against him at the same time including weapons possesion. can't remember if the cops found the weapons at the same time as the drugs, but it was a separate trial. of course i never told any of the other jurors and we ended up finding the guy not guilty even though i thought he was guilty. but based on the evidence presented at trial, he was not guilty.

    this is how the american judicial system works. we have a constitution that says that evidence has to be gathered in accordance with the law otherwise it's tossed out

    • by Aladrin (926209) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @08:35AM (#32083578)

      I agree. "Gut feeling" has no place in a jury box. For that matter, "logic" has a very limited place as well. Evidence is what really matters.

      "Better 10 Guilty Men Go Free than to Convict a Single Innocent Man"

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The unconvicted guilty will get convicted sooner or later. If they were stupid enough to be in court once, they're stupid enough to end up in court again.

        The poor innocent man will end up in prison for something they didn't do and could end up dead from it since prisoners will completely rail on a prisoner if they've been convicted of certain crimes (like kiddy rape) and prisoners can be a very resourceful lot when they put their minds to it.

      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        Oh, purleeease. In most cases, what matters is access to the best legal representation. If you're going to believe only what the judge allows on the record, you might as well just have both sides pile their money on the table, and rule on which pile is higher.
    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @10:03AM (#32084420) Homepage

      I was curious and found that the NYPD has arrest records online. the guy on trial had 10 or so other cases against him at the same time including weapons possession. can't remember if the cops found the weapons at the same time as the drugs, but it was a separate trial. of course i never told any of the other jurors and we ended up finding the guy not guilty even though i thought he was guilty. but based on the evidence presented at trial, he was not guilty.

      I don't know exactly what the rules are in New York, but in Ohio you would be in violation of your oath as a juror, and have demonstrated exactly why this legal decision by the judge was absolutely correct.

      For starters, an arrest record or other charges prove nothing about the defendant. They only prove that the police and/or prosecutor's office thought that the defendant committed some other crimes, not that he actually did commit a crime. For all you know, the real problem was that the defendant was sleeping with the prosecutor's wife. Another factor is that any other evidence you found from, say, news reports, could have been thrown out at trial due to violations of the defendant's constitutional rights.

      Secondly, and more importantly, you said yourself that you thought he was guilty despite insufficient evidence presented in court to make that determination. If you had told the other jurors and convicted the defendant based on your non-evidence, you could well have sent an innocent man to jail. In addition, if there had been sufficient evidence to convict at trial, but you told the other jurors about what you found, you just gave a guilty man grounds for mistrial, which would allow him to return to the streets.

      In short, there are very good reasons for the rules that you may think are stupid, oppressive, etc.

      • by alen (225700)

        he returned to the streets anyway. and he was arrested with something like 10 automatic weapons in his trunk. he told the cops that he was going to buy diapers for his daughter at midnight. the cops chased him for a few miles before he stopped or they forced him off the road.

        funny thing was that he was black and the black people on the jury who lived close to him wanted to convict. us white people who lived in better areas said there wasn't enough evidence

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dkleinsc (563838)

          All that says is that he was probably guilty of weapons charges and evading police. Nothing in what you said proved drug charges, which is what you were responsible for deciding. The key here is that your job as a juror is to decide "Did Mr Jones do XYZ?", not "Is Mr Jones a criminal?"

          You have to trust that if he's guilty of evading police (for instance), another jury will convict him of that, or a plea bargain will happen to lock him up.

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        In short, there are very good reasons for the rules that you may think are stupid, oppressive, etc.

        I don't think he ever claimed that there wasn't a reason for them, although I'd debate whether the rules aren't still "stupid."

        This guy's story is exactly the reason why information shouldn't be withheld from jurors to the degree that it is. He knew about the other charges, and yet he still weighed the evidence and found it insufficient to sustain a conviction.

        Maybe some jurors would be too dumb to be the sam

    • by MacAndrew (463832)

      I admit I was relieved to hear you acquitted the guy -- so it's moot whether you were prejudiced. But otherwise your independent research squarely violated the rules. It could have cut the other way, too: If you'd convicted the guy on the merits and your independent research come to light, it could have caused a mistrial.

      Generally "bad acts," including prior convictions, are not admissible because they are so deeply prejudicial; so the prosecutor couldn't have brought them in, either. The ideal is that

      • by alen (225700)

        in the US you need 12/12 jurors to convict or find not guilty. anything else is a mistrial. worst i could have done is caused a mistrial by telling the other jurors who would have told the judge. and got myself thrown in jail

        • by MacAndrew (463832)

          BTW, unanimous 12 is the federal criminal rule. State practice on size varies, as low as 6 iirc, though for criminal trials it's always a unanimous verdict. A mistrial is a bad thing, expensive and draws out the case.

          But as I said, the extra info could not caused the outcome, and acquittal is usually binding anyway (double jeopardy).

      • by alen (225700)

        i don't remember the details, but i think when the perp was arrested they found drugs and guns. and for whatever reason they were having separate trials for the different charges. he was also arrested several times during a one or two year period for drugs and guns. only reason we didn't convict was the cops didn't bring enough evidence or it was tossed out. who knows? don't really care since he's probably dead or spending all his drug profits on his legal team. his lawyer wore some very nice suits for goin

  • by dcw3 (649211) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:02AM (#32083766) Journal

    Joey Senat, an associate professor of journalism at Oklahoma State University who writes for FOI Oklahoma, adding that what might be convenient to trial participants does not outweigh 'the public's right or need to know.'"

    Freedom of the press does not give the media free reign to interfere with other peoples rights, such as the right to a fair trial. The statement about the public's right or need to know is nothing but self-serving propaganda. Take your 15 minutes of fame, and go away.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Joey Senat is a professor of journalism, not law or philosophy, so his statements in this regard don't mean jack. For that matter the belief that the public has the right/need to know completely ignores the fact that the public needs:
      1. the ability to think about the information without bias.
      2. have access to unbiased information which is not likely something they would get through the trial itself.
        - MaloS

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      In fact, since getting your name mentioned in the paper in relation to a crime can be so prejudicial (not just to a jury, but also to potential employers and the like), there's a good argument that no suspect or defendant should be named in the press until either they are convicted of a crime or the defendant specifically allows it. Many countries in fact have exactly that sort of rule, and the US has that rule for juvenile offenders as well.

  • As much as I personnally believe that criminals get off too easily from the crimes that they commit, I understand why the judge asked for this and why all judges should. The reason is so that people don't get railroaded or blamed for a crime that they potentially did not commit. If I stole a car regardless of the reason and I'm being blames in two other situations for stealing two other cars which puts me in three cases at once. Well since our laws dictact innocent until proven guilty. I'm am therefore e

    • As much as I personnally believe that criminals get off too easily from the crimes that they commit

      Very few people get off easily through a trial. Personally I would rather be convicted by jurors who took the time to research my criminal past than by ones who just wanted to decide quickly or who were moved by the prosecutor's oratory.

  • question (Score:3, Informative)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld.gmail@com> on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @09:29AM (#32084048) Homepage
    Why is just about everyone here assuming this is a criminal case when the summary clearly says it's a civil one?
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Because the questions about what a jury can and cannot know are very similar between civil and criminal law. It's pretty simple too: the jury is supposed to know what was given as evidence in the courtroom, and nothing else about the facts of the case.

  • by Protoslo (752870) on Tuesday May 04, 2010 @12:51PM (#32087258)
    I am fairly certain that Cameron et al. v. St. Francis Hospital et al. [oscn.net] was the case alluded to but never actually mentioned in the article. It is, anyway, the only malpractice suit that went to trial under Judge Morrissey in the past month (and ended in a mistrial from a hung jury). It began in 2/07, which is also consistent with the article. The lawsuit appears to regard a man whose heart attack was (allegedly) misdiagnosed by the hospital, (allegedly) contributing to his death. Its case summary is some seriously dry stuff, and this is the only remotely controversial information in it:

    11-25-2009 CTFREE - 72943283 Nov 25 2009 1:53:28:810PM - $ 0.00
    MORRISSEY, LINDA G.: ORDER ENTERED. DEFENDANT ST. FRANCIS' MOTION TO RECONSIDER IS DENIED. THE COURT CANNOT WEIGH THE EVIDENCE OR ITS CREDIBILITY AND THERE IS TESTIMONY THAT THREE EKG'S SHOW A PATTERN OF MYOCARDIAL ISCHEMIA AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN PRESENTED. IF THE JURY WERE TO BELIEVE THAT THREE EKG'S SUGGEST THAT MR. CAMERON WAS HAVING A HEART ATTACK THEN IT IS REASONABLE TO CONCLUDE THAT THEY MAY NOT BELIEVE A DOCTOR WHO SAYS HE WOULD SEND SOMEONE HOME IN MR. CAMERON'S CONDITION. A JURY MAY NOT BELIEVE DR. ANDERSON WHEN HE SAYS HE WOULD NOT HAVE DONE ANYTHING DIFFERENT IF HE HAD SEEN A "PATTERN OF MYOCARDIAL ISCHEMIA" TESTIFIED TO BY PLAINTIFF'S EXPERT WITNESS. A REASONABLE PERSON COULD FIND THAT 1) THE EKG'S SHOW MYOCARDIAL ISCHEMIA; 2) THAT DR. ANDERSON SHOULD NOT HAVE RELEASED MR. CAMERON TO HIS HOME WHILE SUFFERING A HEART ATTACH; 3) THAT MR. CAMERON LOST A SIGNIFICANT CHANCE OF SURVIVAL BECAUSE HIS HEART ATTACK WAS NOT DETECTED TIMELY, AT LEAST IN PART BY THE FACT THAT ALL EKG'S WERE NOT PRESENTED AND THAT 4) ST. FRANCIS BREACHED THE STANDARD OF CARE. PLAINTIFF'S BURDEN AT THIS STAGE IS TO DEMONSTRATE A CONFLICT OF FACTS AND/OR THE REASONABLE INFERENCES WHICH MAY BE REACHED FROM THEM. IT CANNOT BE FOUND AT THIS TIME THAT THERE IS NO MATERIAL QUESTION OF FACT AS TO THE PLAINTIFF'S NEGLIGENCE CLAIM AGAINST ST. FRANCIS. COPY OF THIS MINUTE WAS MAILED TO DAVID G. GRAVES AND BRAD SMITH; LISA RIGGS AND RICHARD GANN; AMY KEMPFERT AND JOHN BOWLING.

    That was the reason that the plaintiff's motion to quash,

    10-05-2009 MOQ - CAMERON, PAM 72291829 Oct 6 2009 8:47:07:537AM - $ 0.00
    PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO QUASH SUBPOENA DUCES TECUM // CERTIFICATE OF MAILING (C2J)

    was granted. Every other entry except for the description of the jury and trail outcome is labeled merely, "Document Available at Court Clerk's Office."

    I (finally) found this record buried in the Oklahoma State Courts Network database, so it wouldn't be cached by Google or archive.org. There (unsurprisingly) doesn't seem to have been any contemporaneous reporting on the case's developments, so closing the record for the duration of the trial would have been completely effective in preventing jury contamination. Just by reading the ruling, I am not entirely sure what it means or what legal principle it implements, so I will easily grant that it would have been prejudicial as hell to a jury; probably not in a rational, predictable way, either.

    Joey Senat, an associate professor of journalism at Oklahoma State University, said this court order "is essentially closing off court records from the public."

    "If she is going to close off court records, she should have a compelling reason to justify it," said Senat, a former president of Freedom of Information Oklahoma Inc., a watchdog group supporting openness in government.

    A compelling reason...like hiding rulings about suppressed evidence from the jury. Right. No need to explore that dimension in the article, of course, that would be too much work. Or perhaps Senat actually is familiar with th

There are running jobs. Why don't you go chase them?

Working...