Since 2013, more than 6,700 court cases in Colorado have been hidden from public view . Thousands of those remain suppressed to this day. That’s the findings of a more than year-long Denver Post investigation.
Reporter David Migoya investigated the story. He spoke with KUNC’s Kyra Buckley about his work.
Kyra Buckley, KUNC: When an attorney asks a judge in Colorado to suppress a case, the judge can do so at their discretion. What types of cases are being suppressed?
David Migoya: The gamut of the cases include everything from the most violent felonies -- first degree murder -- all the way down to the most mundane misdemeanor, as well as civil cases. The division of those 6,700 cases over the last 5 years, would have been most heavily weighted toward the criminal cases, and then the least number of them were the civil matters and county courts.
Buckley: These suppressed cases are different from sealed cases. That’s when details from an often settled case are hidden from public record. But a case can be suppressed as a soon as a warrant is issued -- and how long will it stay hidden from public view?
Migoya: That suppression order stays in place until it's lifted by the judge. What I found is that not only did we have 6,700 of these, but in at least 66 cases -- and I say at least because there certainly could be more -- we had individuals who were charged, tried, convicted or plead guilty, and sentenced, some to lengthy prison terms, and their case had been suppressed from the moment they walked in the door with the handcuffs on, until the day they walked into prison, through today.
Buckley: And now some things have changed because of your reporting -- George Brauchler, the 18th District Attorney has issued a new policy that a judge can’t just suppress a case, they have to get approval from the most senior DA and get a reason. Any other changes?
Migoya: This was an odd story in that typically newspapers will publish and then the impact or the repercussions of their investigation would begin to happen. Things would be undone, things would be corrected. This was different because the issue of suppression was so difficult to get at and confirm. We had to be very very careful about what we were writing, of course.
A lot of the issues that I was pointing out in our story were being undone as I was reporting, so prosecutors were going back in and unsuppressing cases that I was pointing out to them had been suppressed. A lot of the solutions and the impact of this investigation were happening almost simultaneously.