By Charles C. Johnson, Got News
Last week GotNews.com initiated a lawsuit against St. Louis County Court to release the juvenile criminal records of Michael Brown.
Unfortunately, the court and its officials are playing games to deny the people their legal right to see those records.
It’s time those games came to a stop. The public’s right to know trumps whatever fictitious claims the court is claiming to deny media access.
Last week GotNews.com received word from two St. Louis law enforcement sources that Brown had a juvenile record and that he was involved in a second degree murder case. I tweeted that information out to the public. It went viral.
GotNews.com and I were immediately attacked for reporting this confirmation and so, being responsible, we filed a “sunshine” request with Paul Fox, director of Judicial Administration.
He denied that request and so, unfortunately, GotNews.com sued Fox, the clerk, and the St. Louis County Clerk. (Read: “Why We Sued St. Louis County Court To Get Michael Brown’s Juvenile Arrest Records“)
Fox misled John C. Burns, Got News.com’s attorney, when he said he was responsible for those records. Fox was not.
Next, the Court ridiculously claimed that there were simply too many Michael Browns to give us the information even though we had all of the correct details.
Finally, after much pushing, the St. Louis County Clerk has sent us to family court to get the records. We have a hearing before Judge Ellen Levy Siwak and are scheduled to have hearings on September 3, 2014 in Division 11. We are petitioning her to get those documents.
The behavior of the St. Louis County Court has been astounding.
There can’t be that many Michael Browns named “Michael Orlandus Darrion Brown Jr.” who were also born on May 20, 1996 in Florrisant, MO, who also attended Normandy High School in St. Louis, whose mother was also named Lesley McSpadden and whose father was also named Michael Brown.
We have Brown’s correct address, too: 9764 Vickie Place, St. Louis, 63136 and even his expired driver’s permit (Y137262003).
We shouldn’t have to go to family court to get these documents. They should be immediately provided to us.
No one else has standing to keep those documents privileged and confidential except Brown who is dead. There is, in fact, Missouri Supreme Court precedent that confirms that the moment Brown died his juvenile records revert to public documents.
The facts of the case are eerily similar to those that took place with Brown and Ferguson. William L. Halstead, a white, 18-year-old stole a packet of cigarettes. A security guard beat him so hard he broke his neck, became paralyzed, and died 19 days later. Halstead’s juvenile arrest record was released as part of a wrongful death suit filed by his family, much to their protestation. It went to the appellate court held and then stopped. Later the Missouri Supreme Court adopted the appellate court’s reasoning in a case in 1990 (State v. Mahurin).
So why won’t the St. Louis County court follow the Missouri Supreme Court?
Why is that the records of dead blacks cannot be released but those of dead whites may be—at least according to the St. Louis County?
What could be more racist?
Justice is about developing standards and those standards must endure for all time, in all places, and ought to govern all citizens.
The violence in Ferguson has shocked the world but the suppression of information and truth is far more damaging than any riots.
Buildings can be rebuilt but the pillars of justice, the notions of equality under the law, and the rule of law are hard to rebuild.
Got News calls on the Court to let that information be free. Only the truth will set us free.