Wesley W. Horton, a Hartford appellate lawyer and former chair of the Connecticut Bar Association's Ethics Committee, addressed the issues of prosecutorial statements and sealing the search warrants.
Horton noted that Rules 3.8 and 3.6 cover prosecutors' duties and pre-trial publicity. In general, he said, a prosecutor has to refrain from making extrajudicial statements that would prejudice a criminal case.
"That rule says if a lawyer is participating in an investigation, he's required to keep his mouth shut" if his comments could prejudice a future court proceeding, Horton said. "I agree with [Sedensky] that he needs to be concerned about rule 3.6a, if he's making a statement [to the Sandy Hook commission]. Talking to the governor's commission is an extrajudicial comment."
The rules governing prosecutorial conduct have nothing to do with the sealing of search warrants. But speaking generally, Horton noted two reasons why a prosecutor would want a warrant sealed. One is that "that you're concerned potential targets would find out about it and impede the investigations." A second reason, said Horton, is that releasing the warrant would ruin someone's reputation.
In Horton's view, neither circumstance applies to this case. "I don't see a reason to seal the search warrants at all, let alone for 90 days," he said.
There has been a partial vacuum of hard facts about Newtown. However, plenty of speculation has swept in. There are already groups forming on the Internet and YouTube videos being produced that attempt to deny that the Newtown tragedy ever even occurred. Sedensky said he didn't have much respect for news outlets that write about the existence of conspiracy theories.
In his letter, Yuhan, The News Times' counsel, made four arguments to Judge Blawie. First, as Sedensky said, "No arrests have been made and none are currently anticipated," and both Adam and Nancy Lanza are now dead. Secondly, the fact that the police have searched the Lanza home is a well-known matter of public record, and the police interest in the home's contents is neither a secret nor a mystery.
Third, since searches were made so soon after the shootings within hours at first, and then two days later the letter states that "it is unlikely that the investigation by that point had progressed where the Search Warrant Records would contain anything but basic facts that are already known to the public at this date."
Fourth, public interest in the case is "extremely strong." Even if the state once made a showing of "exigent circumstances" to justify the sealing, the value of continued sealing is outweighed by the public interest in disclosure.