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The process under Judge Vincent Gaughan has been so secretive, the news media’s motion says, that it is impossible to even know what filings have been made in court by Van Dyke’s lawyers and the special prosecutors. For more than a year, Gaughan has ordered that any filings be made directly to his courtroom, circumventing the usual process of publicly filing motions and other documents in the circuit clerk’s office. As a result, the motion noted, a public listing of all the filings in the case is “woefully incomplete.” Concerned their filing itself could violate the judge’s rules if made publicly, the news organizations took the unusual step of filing the motion and supporting documents under seal Tuesday. The judge allowed the documents to be made public Thursday. “News coverage of this important case will provide the public with a window into the workings of its criminal justice system. … But media coverage has been substantially impeded,” said a filing in support of the media motion. “The pleadings, briefs, exhibits, and other filings in this case — which are constitutionally presumed to be public documents — have been shielded from public view and scrutiny.” As he has often done over the course of the nearly 2½-year-old case, Gaughan started Thursday’s hearing by whisking all the parties — including the media lawyers — to a closed-door hearing in his chambers. Only this time it was to discuss public access in the high-profile case. About half an hour later, Gaughan emerged to announce he would permit the media to intervene in the case. Before the next court hearing in the case later this month, lawyers for the news organizations will meet with Van Dyke’s lawyers and the special prosecutors to see if they can agree on what filings should be made public. Such secrecy has long been the style of Gaughan, a veteran of high-profile trials at the Leighton Criminal Court Building with defendants such as singer R. Kelly and the Brown’s Chicken massacre suspects. As he did in those cases, Gaughan instituted a so-called “decorum order” gagging lawyers in the Van Dyke prosecution from publicly discussing the case.
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