In re Colorado v. Sir Mario OwensAnnotate this Case
Defendant Sir Mario Owens was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in 2008. In 2017, the trial court denied defendant's motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Crim. P. 32.2, as well as his related motion to disqualify the District Attorney’s Office for the 18th Judicial District and to appoint a special prosecutor. The basis for the motion to disqualify was an allegation that the District Attorney had failed to disclose evidence that would have been favorable to defendant's defense. Over defendant's objection, the trial court issued a protective order, sealing portions of the post-conviction motions practice. In 2017, petitioner The Colorado Independent filed a motion with the district court, asking the court to unseal the records, arguing that public access to the records was required by the First Amendment, Article II, section 10 of the Colorado Constitution, common law, and the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act. The district court denied that motion, and Petitioner filed for relief under C.A.R. 21, limiting its request for relief to the argument that presumptive access to judicial records is a constitutional guarantee. The Colorado Supreme Court found that while presumptive access to judicial proceedings is a right recognized under both the state and federal constitutions, neither the United States Supreme Court nor the Colorado Supreme Court has ever held that records filed with a court are treated the same way. The Court declined to conclude here that such unfettered access to criminal justice records was guaranteed by either the First Amendment or Article II, section 10 of the Colorado Constitution. The Court therefore affirmed the denial to unseal the records at issue here.