Mar
28

Mumbo Jumbo in Newtown

Just whose life is now in danger in the wake of the mass shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut? There is no reason to believe that there was a second shooter at the scene: Adam Lanza is believed to have killed all 20 school children, and six adults, before he took his own life. Case closed, right?

Not so fast.

Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky released a series of search warrants authorizing the search of the Lanza home and cars. But before releasing these documents, Attorney Sedensky asked a judge for permission to keep some of the information in the warrant affidavits from the public, a process lawyer’s call redaction.

Why?

These are Mr. Sedensky’s words:

"There is information contained in the unredacted warrant affidavit that is not known to the general public and any potential suspect(s), the disclosure of which could jeopardize the safety of a citizen witness," he wrote.

"That disclosure and delivery of the unredacted affidavit would identify persons cooperating with the investigation thus possible jeopardizing their personal safety and well-being," he wrote.

"There is information contained in the unredacted search warrant that is not known to the general public and any potential suspect(s), the disclosure of which would jeopardize the investigation and chances of successfully solving any crime(s) involved," he wrote.

This is the second time the state has sought to keep information in the warrants from the public. In its first motion, filed last December, it stated simply that releasing information might compromise an ongoing investigation. Why, three months later, is the state adding a new ground for redaction – the safety of a witness?

One hopes the state did more than resort to a boilerplate cut and paste of previous motions when it asked Superior Court Judge John F. Blawie to deep six information. Surprising as it may seem, the state’s filing suggests that there is an active investigation of another defendant in the Newtown shooting case, a witness with such incendiary information that his or her safety would be in jeopardy were it to become public.

That is an extraordinary claim. From a distance, it appears that Mr. Lanza acted alone. He is dead. His mother, with whom he lived, is also dead, an apparent victim of her son’s rampage. Mr. Lanza can hurt no one any longer.

The state has not had the authority to prosecute inanimate objects since medieval times, when it could prosecute a stick if it so chose: Mr. Lanza is beyond the reach of what we call justice. So who, who, Mr. Sedensky, is a suspect capable of bringing your witness to harm? What crime? Or is this mere grandstanding?

In all but one of the warrants, a secret witness reports that someone, presumably Mr. Lanza, was a virtual recluse, an "avid gamer who plays Call of Duty, among other games. This witness reports that the Sandy Hook Elementary School was "Adam Lanza’s `life.’" These warrants request permission to search automobiles and the family home.

Another warrant has three complete paragraphs blocked out. This warrant requests permission to search for electronic data in the computers at the Lanza home.

What crimes were the lawmen looking to detect in Mr. Lanza’s computer files? What crimes have they detected? Whose life is in danger? Why?

Somehow, I doubt there will be further charges. I hope someone challenges whether the privileges the state claims justifies this cloak and dagger editing are justified.

The Newtown shootings have become part of the nation’s collective experience. This unseemly game of hiding the truth from the public for obscure and most likely unsupportable reasons is offensive.

Mr. Lanza acted alone, of this I am all but certain based on what I’ve read about the case. There’s no crazed gunman out there threatening to kill witnesses. I’m calling your bluff, Mr. Sedensky: Is there really a threat? Someday, we’ll expect an answer. It is a question your curious pleadings makes sadly necessary.

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About Norm Pattis

Norm Pattis is a Connecticut based trial lawyer focused on high stakes criminal cases and civil right violations. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled.

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I believe that the state is a necessary fiction and that failing to combat it is the first step toward tyranny.
– Norm Pattis

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Nothing in this blog should be considered legal advice about your case. You need a lawyer who understands the context of your life and situation. What are offered here are merely suggested lines of inquiry you may explore with your lawyer.

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