The guest column “The return to secrecy in the courts?” [Opinion, April 30] warns us that the state Supreme Court is considering a change that would allow the identities of defendants in criminal cases to be concealed.
The column begins by describing three criminal convictions: one for sexual harassment and retaliation, one for a college’s shoddy teaching, and one for the torture of stepchildren. It emphasizes the importance of warning the public against malefactors like these. Later, it cites a series of Seattle Times articles that exposed many instances in which courts sealed criminal files “without considering the public interest.”
So far so good.
But then the article describes more specifically the change the Supreme Court is contemplating: “Under the proposal, if criminal charges are dismissed, vacated or pardoned, or defendants are acquitted, there would be a ‘sufficient privacy’ interest to outweigh the public’s interest in evaluating whether the criminal justice system works properly.”
In other words, the change would not apply to the three cases described at the beginning of the article — because in those, the defendants were found guilty. Their names could still be published. The change would protect the names only of those who are acquitted or whose charges are dismissed. That seems fair, if we still believe that a person is legally innocent until found guilty.
Robert and Susan Stanton, Seattle