Friday’s ruling to release most of the search and arrest warrants in the case of Raymond Clark III, who is charged with the murder of the Annie Le GRD ’13, may not bias a future jury, two lawyers said in interviews over the weekend.
The ruling, issued by New Haven Superior Court Judge Roland Fasano, rejected arguments by both the defense and the prosecution to keep the affidavits sealed, siding instead with the Hartford Courant, the New Haven Register, The New York Times and the Associated Press in their motion to release the documents. Although the defense has argued that doing so could influence a jury pool, New Haven criminal defense attorneys Paul Carty and John J. Keefe Jr. said that since the trial could be over a year away, whatever effect the released affidavits could have on the jury would dwindle by the start of the trial.
“[The] public has a short memory,” Carty said.
In interviews Sunday, two lawyers also noted that the judge raises, but never answers, questions about whether the public’s right to information outweighs Clark’s right to a fair trial.
“The conflict between free press and fair trial has been pretty intense at times and this case shows exactly why,” said David Rosen LAW ’69, a senior research scholar at Yale Law School. “People who are in the middle of one of those stories feel as though their own personal tragedy is overwhelmed by the magnitude of public curiosity and appetite for true crime stories.”
After Le was declared missing Sept. 9 from the Yale research facility where she conducted experiments, the story received intense media coverage by reporters from across the country. Le’s murder was the third most covered news story in the United States for the week of Sept. 14-20 according to a Pew Research Center study.
Nicholas D’Amato, a local criminal defense lawyer, noted the newspapers’ self-interest in motioning to open the records.
“My guess is that their bottom line is selling papers,” he said. “It’s about whether or not they can sensationalize a story and it becomes a commercial success for them.”
Paul Guggina, the Courant’s attorney, said only that the newspaper is still deciding how to proceed.
Joseph Lopez, an attorney for Clark, told the Associated Press that he does not expect to appeal Fasano’s ruling. John Waddock, the state prosecutor in charge of the case, was out of the office Friday afternoon.
Carty and Keefe said it is unlikely that the defense or prosecution will appeal to block the unsealing of the affidavits.