Four media organizations are asking a Washington, D.C., judge for public access to court documents in an ongoing criminal trial of Ingmar Guandique for the murder of Chandra Levy, a federal intern who disappeared in 2001, says the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The Washington Post, Associated Press, Gannett, and the Reporters Committee want immediate access to exhibits presented to the jury and written questionnaires completed by prospective jurors.
The news organizations assert that the First Amendment and common law provide for the public's right of access to criminal proceedings and related court records, and that the U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized this access. “Such access arrangements will enable the press and the public to better follow and understand this unfolding criminal proceeding, in which there is a great community interest and concern,” the news organizations say. Patrick Carome, the attorney representing the media parties, said that while questioning of potential jurors normally has been done orally and has taken place in open court in the past, courts are now often turning to lengthy, written questionnaires, and said that this practice becomes problematic if the documents are withheld from the public. Carome said that while court exhibits are shown briefly to those sitting in the court room, reporters often need more hands-on access to these documents on an ongoing basis in order to better understand them and to better explain the story to the public.