Victims of rape and other crimes should not be learning that their attackers are free and awaiting new trials by watching television news or picking up a newspaper, says an East Tennessee prosecutor quoted by The Tennessean in Nashville. A move is afoot in the state legislature for appellate courts to keep rulings under wraps long enough for prosecutors and defense attorneys to tell their clients before the public finds out. “It’s very insensitive for a victim of a rape case to see the case reversed by seeing it on TV for the first time,” said Jerry Estes, a district attorney general who represents four counties near Chattanooga.
Advocates for open records say court opinions are public records the moment they’re filed with court clerks. Rick Hollow, legal counsel for the Tennessee Press Association, called the proposal as “ridiculous overkill.” It is scheduled for a hearing next week. The bill would require the state Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals to withhold opinions from the public for 48 hours so attorneys can notify victims and defendants.