Federal prosecutors filed their response today to a motion filed by the media to keep court proceedings in the Joseph Duncan case open to the public. In it, the prosecutors argued that the courtroom should be closed during any testimony from young victim Shasta Groene and during the showing of a graphic videotape of Duncan sadistically abusing her 9-year-old brother, Dylan, whom he then killed. You can read reporter Bill Morlin’s full story here at spokesmanreview.com. Spokane attorney Duane Swinton, representing The Spokesman-Review and a long list of media outlets and open-government organizations, said the public should be able to understand what the jury will see, hear and consider in determining if Duncan should live or die. The judge has not yet ruled on the matter.
“The media has suggested a reasonable alternative to Shasta testifying in an open courtroom and that is having her testify by closed circuit television where she would be in another room,” Swinton said. Closing the courtroom will not protect the child from a traumatic experience, he said, because the kidnap victim still would have to testify before the jury, attorneys, Duncan, the judge and a variety of court personnel.
Swinton said he also was disappointed to learn from the newly filed U.S. Attorney’s brief that there apparently have been a variety of documents secretly filed with the court going back to July of last year. These government documents, he said, contain legal arguments and factual material presented to the court urging closing of part of the upcoming trial, “and yet this discussion has been going without any public notice or input until the recent briefing we filed.” Click here to read the government’s argument, and click here to read the media’s motion for open proceedings.