The family of murdered Yale pharmacology student Annie Le GRD ’13 has asked that the documents relating to the case against her accused killer, Raymond Clark III, remain sealed.
At a pretrial hearing Tuesday in New Haven Superior Court, state prosecutor John Waddock said Le’s family is concerned that releasing any information about her death would invade the family’s privacy, making “this difficult time much more difficult.”
The documents were the focus of the hearing, at which Clark did not enter a plea. Both the defense and prosecution argued against a motion by several news organizations to release the documents. The New York Times, the Associated Press and the New Haven Register officially joined the Hartford Courant in requesting that Judge Roland Fasano unseal the arrest warrant and eight search warrants, said the companies’ attorney, Paul Guggina.
But Clark’s defense attorney, Beth Merkin, said keeping the information in those documents secret would help ensure “a fair and impartial jury, one that is not affected by any adverse pre-trial publicity.”
Guginna countered that releasing the information to the public would not compromise a future jury since so much information about the case has already been publicized.
“It does a disservice to the jury process to suggest that it would be impossible [for a juror who follows cases in the newspaper] to be objective about a case,” he said.
Releasing the documents is a First Amendment issue, he said, and trying to protect a defendant’s right to a fair trial cannot override the press and the public’s right to the information.
Ira Grudberg ’55 LAW ’60, a trial lawyer at the firm of Jacobs, Grudberg, Belt, Dow & Katz on Orange Street, said court records usually do not remain sealed for this long.
Grudberg and New Haven defense attorney Paul Carty both said it was unusual for the family to get involved in this kind of issue. As a result, the family’s request will probably have weight with the judge, Grudberg said.
Judge Fasano said he will give his ruling about whether to release the documents in the next few weeks.
Throughout the proceedings, a handcuffed Clark sat in an orange jumpsuit and stared straight ahead at the judge. After Le’s body was found hidden behind a wall in the basement of the Yale research building at 10 Amistad St., Clark, a former Yale animal lab technician, was arrested on Sept. 17 and charged with her murder. Clark will next appear in court on Nov. 3, at which time a probable cause hearing may occur. At such hearings, the state presents evidence of probable cause for the charge, and then the judge must determine whether the state has sufficient evidence to proceed to trial. The hearing, if held, must occur within 60 days of an individual’s arrest and will likely involve the disclosure of some of the evidence that is currently being withheld from the public.
Following Clark’s first appearance in court on Oct. 7, one of his attorneys, public defender Joseph Lopez, told the News that the issue to participate in a probable cause hearing is a strategic decision.
Clark is being held at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Conn., on $3 million bond.