Letter: About that video
The Aspen Times and Post Independent printed a story Friday about the release of a video to the media that is evidence held by the Pitkin sheriff on a pending criminal matter. The accused has not yet been charged and has not even obtained a lawyer yet. I would like the public to know my position as I believe that my responsibilities and requirements as a prosecutor were not fully explained in the article.
I fully support the public’s right to know and transparency for all of our public officials. After criminal cases are resolved by trial or plea, the public is entitled to full disclosure of criminal justice records in a case; however, there are special legal and ethical considerations that come into play when deciding what information can be released before trial or a plea. An accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court by a trial of his peers.
Prosecutors are held to high ethical standards to protect the rights of the accused. When dealing with pretrial publicity, all lawyers are bound by the Colorado Rules of Professional Responsibility. These rules also give prosecutors the affirmative duty of making efforts to prevent dissemination of the evidence by law enforcement officials before the accused can defend himself in court.
Rule 3.8 assigns special responsibilities to a prosecutor. It states:
The prosecutor in a criminal case shall:
(f) except for the statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused unless such comments are permitted under Rule 3.6(b) or 3.6(c) and exercise reasonable care to prevent investigators, law enforcement personnel, employees or other persons assisted or associated with the prosecutor in a criminal case from making extrajudicial statements that the prosecutor would be prohibited from making under Rule 3.6 or this rule.
Rule 3.6 allows for statements that are already in the public record, that an investigation is in progress, warning to the public about a danger and other identifying information about the accused. It also allows a lawyer to make a statement to protect his client from substantial undue prejudice of recent publicity.
I greatly respect the press and the sheriff, Joe DiSalvo. Sheriff Joe and I disagree, and we are able to debate this issue easily and respectfully. We are not “at odds.” I know that the public wants to know what happened in these criminal cases. However the rules that I must live by as a prosecutor require that I not make such disclosures and that I discourage others that are involved (i.e. sheriff’s department) from doing so.
Sherry A Caloia
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