Appellate Court Rules Partially In Media's Favor In Tensing Retrial Lawsuits
The Ohio First District Court of Appeals is finally ruling on a case brought by local media against Hamilton County Judge Leslie Ghiz. News outlets including WVXU sued for documents related to the second Ray Tensing trial earlier this year, and access to the courtroom.
The appellate court ruled redacted juror questionnaires should have been released, citing several Supreme Court rulings, State ex rel. Beacon Journal Publishing Co. v. Bond chief among them.
"[Judge Ghiz] should have released the redacted questionnaires immediately after conducting the hearing on the issue and before the trial commenced," the ruling says.
The court says access to completed juror questionnaires is part of the "presumptive right to access during voir dire proceedings" outlined in the First Amendment and the Ohio Constitution.
In its ruling, the appellate court writes Judge Ghiz didn't properly follow the tenets of the Bond ruling.
"[Judge Ghiz] made insufficient findings to support her decision to withhold the completed juror questionnaires in their entirety from public disclosure," the court writes. "In fact, the findings she made only addressed the nondisclosure of identifying information, including the names and addresses of the jurors. Therefore, Relators (the media) have clearly met their burden to demonstrate that they are entitled to the release of information other than identifying information."
Two of the three judges agreed to dismiss the courtroom access argument as moot since the trial ended well before Wednesday's ruling. However, in her dissent Judge Marilyn Zayas writes the appellate court should take up the issue anyway because of the likelihood of it happening again.
Final Court Documents Should Be Released
With the appellate court's ruling, WVXU expects to receive transcripts of some court proceedings which have been withheld. Judge Ghiz ruled sidebar and in-chambers conversations would be released, but refused to allow their release until the appeals court's ruling.