The Newtown elementary school shootings have gripped Connecticut as no other crime, enduring as constant front page news.
On the lawns of the state Capitol, chants ring out from gun-control activists "Pass the law" when there is no law in sight. And while lawmakers meet to consider gun safety and mental health legislation, Governor Dannel Malloy is impatiently shouldering forward his own legislative proposals, with predictions they could come to a vote in mid-March.
But responses to the Sandy Hook massacre are being debated without most people knowing all the facts. Policymakers, the press and the public don't know what police were looking for and what they found when they searched the home of shooter Adam Lanza, and his first victim and mother, Nancy Lanza.
This normally-public list of what the search found remain under seal in the Danbury clerk's office. Danbury State's Attorney Sephen Sedensky obtained a 90-day sealing from Superior Court Judge John F. Blawie on Dec. 27. In five identical orders, the judge ruled that because this is an "ongoing investigation, the State's interest in continuing nondisclosure substantially outweighs any right to public disclosure at this time."
But some members of the media are questioning that decision. A lawyer for The News-Times of Danbury, Stephen Yuhan, wrote to Blawie on Jan. 24, a letter that was joined by the New York Times, the Washington Post Company, the Associated Press and the Journal News, of Westchester County, N.Y.
They politely requested Blawie reconsider his order on the grounds that, with no living suspects, there's no pressing legal reason to keep the documents sealed, and the public right to know should prevail. A continuing investigation, by itself, is not reason enough to seal, Yuhan wrote.
Yuhan cites Practice Book section 42-49A, which covers sealing of files in criminal cases, and says, "except as otherwise provided by law, there shall be a presumption that documents filed with the court shall be available to the public."
If reasons for sealing existed in the weeks right after the shooting, they don't anymore, Yuhan contended, and "any limited, speculative interest served by the continued sealing is outweighed by strong public interest in disclosure."
No Arrests 'On Horizon'
In his defense, Sedensky has told reporters and the governor's Sandy Hook Advisory Commission he could not talk about the case, due to Rules of Professional Conduct 3.6 and 3.8, which govern prejucial pre-trial publicity that could harm a defendant. Furthermore, he has asked to seal the search warrant file to protect the integrity of the police investigation until it's completed, Sedensky told the Law Tribune.