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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.'"
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Judge Closes Online Access To Info On Civil Case

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  • 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 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

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