The Washington Times-Herald

January 25, 2014

Why we asked for the records

The Washington Times-Herald

---- — There is one court in the United States that controls everything inside and outside its chambers. Those covering that court’s proceedings have to get permission from the court to cover actions therein. And, when reporters ask for records, they most generally wait weeks to receive them, if they are allowed to see them at all.

The court is located at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The court is for enemy combatants that, in some cases, planned terrorist attacks against Americans.

What is appalling is the journalists covering the tribunals of 155 accused terrorists have more access compared to a case being currently tried in Daviess County Superior Court.

The case is the State of Indiana vs. Logan Evans and is currently sealed by the court while it heads to a trial. Evans is accused of murder in the shooting death of Devan Burris on Dec. 6, 2013.

There is no public record available in Evans’ case, and when asked to view them, access is denied by the Daviess County Clerk’s Office. The public, including all those interested in the case, did not even know a case number had been created, or that an attorney had been retained in the case until the court provided a case summary last week. Had there not been an original arrest record and a press release saying Evans had been arrested on a preliminary murder charge, it would be as if the case had not existed.

The records were sealed by Judge Dean Sobecki at the request of the Daviess County Prosecutor Dan Murrie. As to the reason behind the request, we have no idea since the request to seal the records is also sealed. On Thursday, through attorney Pat Carroll, the Times Herald asked to have the records of Evans be unsealed.

The reason the newspaper asked is no secret — we represent you. Through the guarantee of freedom of the press in both the United States and Indiana constitutions, we have a right to inform citizens of those accused of crimes in our county and their public proceedings in court. Three young people from our community face serious charges in the death of another teenager.

Needless to say, sealed records in all three cases have prevented us from doing our constitutional duty, informing the public.

Our request to unseal Evans’ court records is not any inference on his guilt or innocence. He has the right for a jury of his peers to decide the outcome.

This also holds true for two accused accomplices also charged in the shooting, Lucas Benjamin and Heaven Berry. We feel sorrow for Burris’ family and friends as they continue to grieve. Tammy Burris, the victim’s mother, writes a letter ( below in today’s Letters to the Editor) imploring everyone to make sure other children do not fall into the path Devan and others found themselves that snowy night back in December. We wholeheartedly agree.

During a hearing Thursday, Judge Sobecki said: “If this court didn’t think public access is important, we would not have set this hearing.”

We believe this to be true and look forward to the release of the documents in all three cases against the defendants.

Daviess County courts should not be like military tribunals in Cuba. The investigation into the death of Devan Burris should be primarily over. Three local young people face life-altering charges in our courts in conjunction with Burris’ death. The citizens in our community have a right to know what is going on with these cases.