SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

November 5, 2013

Judge mulls request to unseal details in teacher's slaying

(Continued)

Grygiel called that argument “entirely speculative,” and outside court, he suggested that the students are very likely discussing the case among themselves.

If prosecutors could show a specific concern, argued lawyer Peter Caruso, who represents The Salem News and The Eagle-Tribune, the news organizations would be amenable to having the names of witnesses blacked out.

Both O’Sullivan and Dan Murphy, a lawyer for the Ritzer family, raised privacy concerns.

“It’s been less than two weeks since this horrible murder of Colleen Ritzer,” Murphy said. “This family has endured unbearable pain.”

“All I can say is this family needs time to grieve, and they ought to be afforded that opportunity,” Murphy said outside court.

Grygiel argued that prosecutors have already discussed the details with the family during a meeting last week. And privacy as a grounds for impoundment was rejected by the Supreme Judicial Court during another high-profile Essex County murder case, the 2000 murder of Karen Sharpe by her husband, Dr. Richard Sharpe, in Wenham, when news organizations sought access to the couple’s divorce records.

Susan Oker, who is a public defender representing Chism, also argued against the release, but on different grounds, suggesting that not only could “sensational” information taint the potential jury pool, but that some of the information contained in the documents — including Chism’s statement to police the night of his arrest — might be inadmissible at trial.

She also argued that Chism’s youth should be a factor considered by the judge.

Deana El-Mallawany, an attorney for The Boston Globe, suggested that while certainly “daunting” for the defendant to be just 14 and facing a murder charge, his youth is not a valid factor for the judge to consider.

Lauranzano took the request under advisement and is expected to rule sometime this week. But his ruling could be stayed should the District Attorney’s office or the defense seek to appeal, he told the lawyers.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.

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