Horrific video footage taken at a Colorado federal penitentiary of two prisoners torturing guards and murdering the body of their ally will not soon be released to the news media – even though the videos were shown in open court to two juries in a failed attempt to obtain the death penalty against the murderers.
Tuesday’s decision by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals is another setback in the feisty’s battle. Prison Legal News to get the full video. The paper sought on its website to give a first hand look at what correctional workers found in 1999 when they discovered cousin William and Rudy Sablan cheering in on the murder and dismantling of Joey Estrella. The murder went down in the special housing unit of the USP Florence, the scene of other murderers of prisoners and mistreatment of personnel leading to the murder of Estrella.
West word, Sixty minutes, the Associated Press and other organizations joined as “friends of the court” in submitting brief support PLNthe request, which gave him the right to access public records against the “privacy interests” of the Estrella family.
The Sablans received life sentences for the murder. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, which was eager to display images of Estrella’s body reconciling to appalling juries, objected to the release of the materials. PLN after the trials were completed. Finally, the government released a part of the video that does not show Estrella’s body and an audio track of the censored part, minus a few comments from the Sablans.
PLN lawyers argued, among other things, that a government video played in open court was part of the judicial record and that Estrella, a federal prisoner, had less of a “privacy interest” than a private citizen. But the appeals court ruled that Estrella’s survivors had an “independent” interest in not disclosing the materials publicly — one that violated all rights to freedom of information.
Whether the point in question is sufficient to be disputed to end on further appeal is not clear. But fundamental questions remain about Estrella’s decades-old murder questions that are unlikely to be answered soon. Like: What did three prisoners do in a cell designed for one? Where did the Sablans get the drink and razor they used in their drunken surgery? Where were the guards while Estrella screamed for help?
Sometimes a privacy interest protects more than just the sensitivity of the survivors.
More from our News Archive: “Advice in prison on sniffing, legging and pretending that a man with makeup is a woman.”
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