This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
Justice in all cases shall be administered openly, and without unnecessary delay.
Article 1, Section 10, Washington Constitution
When a robed judge is presiding over an open courtroom in a criminal case, it’s alarming to see the public booted out and the doors slammed shut.
That’s precisely what happened Monday, when King County Superior Court Judge James Cayce prevented a journalist and an attorney from watching a key witness provide sworn testimony for the trial of Judge Michael Hecht. Barred from the proceeding were The News Tribune’s Adam Lynn and an attorney representing the newspaper, James Beck.
The witness was Joseph Pfeiffer, whose testimony is crucial for both the prosecution and defense. Hecht, a Pierce County Superior Court judge, stands accused of felony harassment and patronizing a prostitute: Pfeiffer, an obviously troubled 21-year-old, is one of the alleged prostitutes Hecht is accused of frequenting.
Pfeiffer originally told police and this newspaper that Hecht gave him money for sex on multiple occasions. Pfeiffer later took a step back from that story, saying instead that Hecht gave him money and had sex with him – but the money wasn’t a quid pro quo for the sex.
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