By: Staff reports
Reporters Blocked From Pre-trial Meetings
The New York Daily News yesterday filed a motion to block an Albany judge from holding secret meetings with lawyers or sealing key records in the Amadou Diallo case.
During pre-trial hearings in Albany last week, Tracy Tulley, a Daily News reporter, was denied access to a private caucus between the judge, prosecutors, and the defendants’ attorneys. The defendants are four New York City police officers charged with murder for firing 41 shots at an unarmed African immigrant, Amadou Diallo.
Twenty-four hours after the private meeting, a transcript was released and revealed that the four-hour caucus involved a discussion over witnesses and the release of certain tape recordings. However, the Daily News states in the motion that significant omissions are apparent after reviewing the transcript.
The Daily News has been joined in its motion by The New York Times, The Associated Press, Newsday of Long Island, N.Y., the New York Post, the Albany (N.Y.) Times Union, the New York Law Journal, and Clear Channel Communications.
In its motion, the Daily News argues that the right of access is especially important in this case because “unlike most criminal cases which involve government action only on the part of the prosecution, in this case, the very crime alleged against the defendants is related to government action.” Secondly, the minority communities in New York have a great public interest in this case, as witnessed by the demonstrations immediately after the shooting, the paper argues.
Martin Krall, executive vice president and chief legal officer at the Daily News tells E&P Interactive, “It’s very important the public know it’s a fair trial. If the cops are acquitted, which is one of the public’s major fears with the trial being in Albany, the public needs to know what happened. There are strong racial elements involved in this case.”
The defendants’ attorneys have opposed the motion but the District Attorney’s office has not voiced an opinion yet, says Eve Burton, vice president and deputy general counsel for the Daily News.
Burton is hoping the motion will be heard on Jan. 19, prior to the case’s starting date of Jan. 31. “We’re just making sure the courtroom door doesn’t creak shut,” she says.
An appeals court moved the trial from the Bronx to Albany last month because they thought pre-trial media coverage would make it difficult to find an impartial jury.