A Rhode Island judge will rule within 10 days on whether the public will get to see transcripts and other materials from the grand jury that investigated the Station nightclub fire, reports the Providence Journal. Judge Joseph F. Rodgers Jr. heard arguments for 90 minutes yesterday on a request by the attorney general to disclose testimony, exhibits, and instructions that were given to the grand jury. The panel met 10 months after the 2003 nightclub fire that killed 100 people.
Law Prof. Larry Ritchie of Roger Williams University, who was appointed by the court to argue for grand jury secrecy, maintained that witnesses and jurors in future proceedings might be reluctant to participate fully and honestly if they knew their testimony would be disseminated. The judge called that issue “unfounded.” Because prosecutors must give defendants a record of the grand jury proceedings, Rodgers said they frequently loses their veil of secrecy. “The reality is it's done every single day in this state,” Lise Gescheidt, arguing for an association of defense lawyers, said, “Do we really want the public and the media scrutinizing the grand jury every time they decide not to return an indictment?” she said. “To allow release of this information because it's interesting to the public is a very dangerous step to take.”