Woburn daily, others cause
murder case to remain open
With the persistence of the Daily Times Chronicle of Woburn, Mass., and other news organizations, all the evidence and testimony in the pretrial proceedings in the case of a quadruple homicide alleged to have been committed by a Massachusetts man have been made available to the press and public.
In June 2010, the wife, mother-in-law and two children of Thomas Mortimer IV, a 44–year-old Winchester, Mass. resident, were brutally murdered in their Winchester residence. Mortimer was subsequently charged with the murders and arraigned on those charges. During its coverage of the ensuing trial, the Daily Times Chronicle learned that Mortimer’s defense lawyer, Denise Regan, had made a motion to strike two sentences of the court’s brief summary of the case evidence from public view. The sentences referred to confession notes written by Mortimer that were obtained by police during their investigation.
The Boston Globe and The Associated Press filed a motion for Regan to withdraw her request, and a judge decided in February that those sentences would be made public.
Regan announced in Middlesex (Mass.) Superior Court Feb. 3 that she would file a motion to close to the public a competency hearing in the case. That type of hearing is held to determine whether a defendant is mentally competent to stand trial.
“She placed a request to close the proceedings to the public until the case went through (to trial), for fear of exposing her defense strategy,” Patrick Blais, a Daily Times Chronicle reporter familiar with the case, said.
In response, Peter Haggerty, the Daily Times Chronicle’s publisher and president of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, contacted lawyer Peter Caruso Sr. to aid the Daily Times Chronicle’s efforts in keeping all parts of the case public.
Caruso filed a motion for an appearance with the court on behalf of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association to oppose Regan’s motion for Judge Leila Kern to decide whether to keep open the competency proceeding.
“I explained to the clerk what I was doing and they scheduled a hearing for the next week,” Caruso said.
That hearing, scheduled for Feb. 15, never took place, however, because when Caruso informally notified Regan of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association’s intentions, she withdrew her motion to close the trial’s competency hearing to the press and public.
When Caruso telephoned Regan to notify her of his plans to file the motion, she seemed surprised at the amount of attention that her motion had garnered from the news media, Caruso said. After speaking with Caruso, Regan informed the court that she would withdraw her motion.
Robert Ambrogi, a lawyer
and executive director of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association,
agreed with Caruso.
Caruso said the chain of events resulted in the quickest results he’d ever seen, which he thinks is a testament to the power of the press.
“It proves that … their opposition alone may result in the court being open and the public records being open,” he said.
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