Public access to evidence a constitutional right


BOISE — NewsChannel 7 talked to a well-known local attorney about the public’s access to a trial or hearing like Joseph Duncan’s despite the victim’s request that they not be allowed.

Steve Groene did not hide the fact that he didn’t want the public to see a graphic videotape of his young son Dylan being tortured and raped.

But against his requests, the Constitution says the public has the right to be there and see all evidence.

Enraged, Groene targeted two women — the only two members of the general public who chose to watch the disturbing video. Moments before the tapes were played, he rushed into the courtroom and made a profane hand gesture toward the women and verbally gave them a piece of his mind.

Groene was upset that U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge did not keep the courtroom closed from the public when the tapes were played, except to those pertinent to the hearing.

Boise attorney David Leroy says his actions were fitting for an outraged parent, but according to the law, his emotions could not be considered.

“We have in this country a constitutional right for a defendant to have a public and open trial, we have strong rights for the media and the public to see what is going on in our courts,” said Leroy.

The former Idaho attorney general and current defense attorney, David Leroy, says our constitutional rights stem from our founders who fled a king that decided a man’s fate behind closed doors. And when the Constitution was written it deemed that if life, liberty or property were at risk, then it was going to happen in a public arena — no matter how the victim felt.

“Idaho has very strong victim’s rights statues, we recognize that it’s terribly important for the sensitivity of victims to be considered in the courtroom and the sentencing process, even the parole process when people are being released from custody, however none of those victim’s rights, those statutes, control the outcome and the conduct of a case,” said Leroy.

With the outcome of the case being life or death, Leroy says the evidence for all to see must be in the bounds of reality, materiality, and relevance.

“This is a dreadful, dreadful case and a horrible set of allegations it’s probably among the worst 10 cases in the last 100 years in terms the abuse of children and those who have to sit and look at the evidence whether they’re trained police officers or whether they’re jurors drawn from the public, nevertheless the question is – what shall we do with this man? And it’s important to follow the procedure and look at the evidence objectively,” said Leroy.

The two women that Steve Groene made obscene gestures at did not want to go on camera, but quietly told us that they understood why he was mad.

They said they were in court to see the judicial process unfold and mean no disrespect toward the case and the Groene family.


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