Criminal charges, divorce filings updated on Utah’s Right

10 08 2013

Worried about that guy who’s dating your daughter?

I”ve updated the criminal charges and divorces databases on Utah’s Right, with data from Jan. 1, 1997, to Aug. 2, 2013. The data does not include people whose cases were dismissed or handled through diversion or plea-in-abeyance agreements.

I also delete criminal charges that have been expunged, once I receive a copy of the expungement order.

Even taking out those cases, the databases are still extensive. There are 883,792 criminal charges listed in the database, an increase of 5,069 since the June update.

On the divorce side, we have 146,897 cases online, which is 4,058 more than there were in June.

Bear in mind, just because you found a person’s name in the database, that is not positive identification. The courts do not provide dates of birth in the data requests. So, please verify identities with another source before basing a decision on what you see on the site.

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Connecticut lawmakers pass bill to keep murder records secret

7 06 2013

This may sound familiar to Utahns: A bill drastically changing government-records laws is secretly drafted and rushed through with little time for public comment.

In a scenario reminiscent of the HB477 debacle, Connecticut lawmakers passed a bill that makes records of murder cases private. The bill, which was drafted in secret by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s staff, the state’s top prosecutor and leaders in the legislature, was a response to the Sandy Hook shootings, where a gunman killed 20 students and six teachers before committing suicide.

The bill, which did not go through the public hearing process and was passed at the end of the legislature’s session, exempts photos, film or digital images depicting homicide victims, as well as 911 calls describing the condition of a victim. It also shifts the burden of proof from the state to the requester, who has to make the case why a record should be released.

Malloy said the purpose of the bill was to protect the families from seeing the crime photos on the Internet. Some of the victims’ families support the move.

“I’m fully supportive of an open and transparent government, but I can’t understand how distributing graphic photos of murdered teachers and children serves any purpose other than causing our families more pain,” Dean Pinto, whose 6-year-old son, Jack, was killed in the school shooting, was quoted in reports as saying.

The law initially only dealt with the Sandy Hook case, but was expanded to cover all homicides in the Nutmeg State, which sets a bad precedent, critics warn.

“What they’re doing here is protecting the family … but it becomes a slippery slope,” said David Cuillier, president-elect of the Society of Professional Journalists. “Anything that makes someone uncomfortable, the government can make secret.”

H/t to the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press.





Pictures of Osama bin Laden’s corpse to remain secret, judges say

28 05 2013

If you find pictures purporting to be those of Osama bin Laden’s body after he was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs, they’re most likely frauds.

The government is not letting anyone in the public see them.

A three-judge panel of the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that the government was justified in denying Freedom of Information Act requests for the photos and videos taken after the raid, including bin Laden’s burial at sea, because it would endanger national security. The court found that the Defense Department and the CIA properly classified the documents as private.

“This is not a case in which the declarants are making predictions about the consequences of releasing any images,” the court wrote. “Rather, they are predicting the consequences of releasing an extraordinary set of images, ones that depict American military personnel burying the founder and leader of [al-Qauida].”

Judicial Watch, a government watchdog group, requested the pictures shortly after President Barrack Obama announced that commandos killed bin Laden in his Abbottabad, Pakistan, hideout, ending a manhunt that stretched out almost 10 years. The group sought the pictures and videos in order to complete the public record of the demise of the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

But the court accepted the government’s position that releasing the photos and videos would enflame al-Qaida and other extremists, possibly putting Americans at risk. It noted the effect Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad, the founder of Islam, had on radicals. The government also warned that releasing the images used to identify bin Laden through facial-recognition software could reveal intelligence sources or methods.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton denounced the decision as “craven” and said the group is weighing its next legal steps.

“The courts need to stop rubber-stamping this administration’s improper secrecy,” Fitton said. “There is no provision in the Freedom of Information Act that allows documents to be kept secret because their release might offend our terrorist enemies.”

h/t to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.