This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
That’s how we reacted a few weeks ago to a judge’s order to block the release of law enforcement reports about the shooting of four Lakewood police officers last November. Such documents are routinely released – for very good reason – once officers have caught the suspects and wrapped up the investigation.
Susan Serko of the Pierce County Superior Court got the law wrong May 20 when she sided with defense lawyers representing the seven people accused of assisting cop-killer Maurice Clemmons. The attorneys persuaded her to stop the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department from releasing more than 2,000 pages relating to the cases, arguing that publicizing the information might deny their clients a fair trial.
This week, Serko delivered a double-huh decision. Admitting that she’d misunderstood key points of law in her original ruling, she still reaffirmed the ruling. The Seattle Times, which – joined by The News Tribune – was trying to pry the reports loose, plans to appeal. Serko’s decision cries out for reversal.
The Washington Supreme Court has already upheld pretrial disclosure of investigative documents – in a 1999 decision that overrode an earlier ruling Serko inexplicably relied on. But let’s leave precedents aside and consider what’s at stake for justice in general.
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