SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 4, 2013

Judge mulls request to release warrant details

Julie Manganis
STAFF WRITER

DANVERS —

A judge is now mulling whether to release search warrant materials he had ordered sealed shortly after the slaying of Danvers High School math teacher Colleen Ritzer last month.

Salem District Court Judge Michael Lauranzano could rule as soon as tomorrow. But that doesn't mean the materials will be released; both prosecutors and the lawyer representing Philip Chism could seek a delay of any order taking effect until they have time to appeal.

Prosecutors in Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett's office yesterday offered to let the judge unseal a "redacted" version of the materials, arguing that they believe the version they have created will address their concerns about the privacy of the victim's family and potential influences on witnesses who have yet to testify before the grand jury.

But Susan Oker, a public defender who represents Chism, 14, said she is opposed to the release of any information from the search warrant materials, on the grounds that they could prejudice Chism's right to a fair trial as well as because of his age.

And Daniel Murphy, a lawyer representing the Ritzer family, is also opposed to the release of materials before the family has a chance to "digest" the disturbing details.

Attorneys for several media organizations, including The Salem News and The Eagle-Tribune; GateHouse, the Associated Press and the Boston Globe have challenged Lauranzano's order sealing the materials, on the grounds that such materials are, as a matter of law, public documents and that prosecutors have failed to demonstrate an overriding need for continued secrecy.

Michael Grygiel, an attorney representing the media, suggested that the prosecutors are simply "speculating" as to the effect on witnesses in the case if information is released. 

For more on this story see tomorrow's Salem News and salemnews.com.

 

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