Sitting in court last week while covering the multiple civil suits filed against a number of parties in response to the shooting at the high school, I heard Gabe Parker's attorney mention one of his concerns with having Parker testify in depositions (at this point) was the potential for leaks to the media that could ultimately damage due process in the criminal case.
His statement kept sticking with me and I couldn't let it go so I asked him about it just after court--on the record and he knew he was on the record, which is why he declined to comment further. I wanted to know what he meant by "leaked to the media" when that testimony is something that would be an open record, therefore nullifying this idea of being something that could be leaked.
Let's make something clear--this notion of something being leaked to the media implies sharing information the media (and therefore the public) would not be privy to otherwise, and done under the table. But all documents in a court file, unless sealed by a judge, are public record.
I specifically asked him about sealing the testimony from Parker and if that was not an option. He said it was, but getting documents sealed is "difficult," and "keeping those things secret inside a courtroom is difficult as well," He went on to say that even if he could've gotten the judge to agree to seal the documents, that doesn't mean they wouldn't be released anyway.
The idea that we would intentionally gain access to sealed documents and then widely disperse that information knowing it could harm a case that's so personal to our collective community is insulting.
In one swoop, this attorney hurled insults at a large group of hard-working people who are doing their jobs, diligently, while still processing the pain in the aftermath of the tragedy. And, in my opinion, insulted the community at large as well--expecting that the public would fall for the "evil media" ploy that's so common these days and assuming you all are not intelligent enough to put the pieces together yourselves. I get that it's his job to create a narrative for his client but the narrative he created assumes we don't have a right to know facts.
There were two other media representatives present for the hearings and he was less than completely truthful when one of them asked him to confirm Parker's age. And he wouldn't identify Parker by name but rather kept referring to him as "the minor child." That's misleading as well--Parker is being tried as an adult and he's 17 years old--let's agree to speak of him as such.
Commonwealth's Attorney Dennis Foust repeatedly says his office is doing everything they can to ensure the team of prosecutors is ready to try the case once and the right way, the first time. Here at The Tribune-Courier we have a similar policy--we're obviously not trying the case but we are following along closely and believe the public has the right to know what is happening every step of the way.
This case and any resulting case related to the school shooting is not one we follow because it sells papers--it's one we follow because we care, because you care and because you have the right to know.