Should the George Zimmerman Case File Remain Closed to the Public?


Prosecutors of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin shooting have cited new video evidence, a long list of witnesses and experts, and hints of a trail of facts, forensic details, and witness observations that they hope will lead a jury to a second-degree murder conviction, says the Christian Science Monitor. The guts of the hefty case file remain secret. The prosecution wants to keep it that way, having asked Judge Kenneth Lester to waive Florida court transparency laws to keep some witness names secret.

The urge to keep the Zimmerman file under wraps is largely based on an atmosphere of threats and concerns about witness cooperation that both sides fear could undermine a trial. “When you think of Florida, it's not short on crime and not short on spectacular, newsworthy crimes, but even despite all these high-profile trials through the years, this is the first instance in which I can see a judge seriously considering limiting access to a discovery file,” says Charles Davis, an expert on open records at the University of Missouri. “But therein lies the problem of closing the file,” he says. “Is there a real sense of some looming threat? And can it be tied to the release of more information in the discovery files? That's a much tougher leap to make. The overall takeaway from discovery records is [they] tend to add context to a case, not take away from it.”

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