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EDITOR, Daily News:
The Alaska Press Club Board has approved the following resolution against Alaska Senate Bill 108, "An Act relating to the confidentiality of certain records of criminal cases; and providing for an effective date."
The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads, in full: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."
The Founding Fathers saw fit when writing that amendment to enshrine the right of the public to have full access, within reason, to the legal proceedings.
The Alaska Press Club firmly believes that an open legal system one subject to public scrutiny and held accountable is a healthy legal system. Unfortunately, SB 108, "An Act relating to the confidentiality of certain records of criminal cases; and providing for an effective date," does not provide for an open legal system.
The Alaska Press Club believes that these records are of enduring public interest because we believe that cases are rarely black and white. We believe that adequate safeguards already exist to protect those who are merely charged or who have been found innocent.
We believe that the public should be trusted to know the difference between a charge and a conviction, to understand the bedrock principle of "Innocent until proven guilty."
Further, the Alaska Press Club believes this law will not accomplish the desired goal expressed by its sponsor, to protect those falsely accused from public condemnation.
The Alaska Press Club believes that the damage done to the public process, to the public trust, will outweigh any perceived protection granted by SB 108.
This resolution has been edited for publication in Ketchikan Daily News.
Alaska Press Club