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Judge rules against Daily Item in Talbot murder tape case

LYNN – A Suffolk Superior Court Judge has ruled against The Daily Item in its attempt to force Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley to release a public surveillance video taken the night that Revere Police Officer Daniel Talbot was shot and killed behind Revere High School.Judge John C. Cratsley ruled in favor of the District Attorney Friday, one week after hearing arguments from both sides in superior court.Cratsley ruled that Conley’s office was protected from Public Records laws in this case because the tape is still part of a grand jury investigation into Talbot’s alleged murder, making it exempt according to a privacy exemption.But Daily Item Attorney Peter Caruso says the District Attorney’s Office did not argue the exemption properly, and its original reply to the Item’s request for the tape referenced a different exemption, violating the procedure required in the public records laws.”This ruling is ironic because the District Attorney is one of the enforcing arms of the public records law, and his office has had a history of not responding to our requests in a timely way,” said Caruso. “In their response to our request for the tape, which they sent within the 10 day period, there is supposed to be an exemption to the public records law present. Their response did not list an exemption. After our second request, they said the video falls under the investigatory exemption, and we have been arguing that it doesn’t fall under this exemption at all.”Then, they show up (at the court hearing) and say ‘We don’t think the investigatory exemption works anymore’ so they went with privacy and Grand Jury exemptions. You can’t do that. It is like throwing a dart at a dartboard and saying ‘OK, we are going to go with this exemption now.”Caruso says by showing up to court to argue a different exemption than the one listed in their response to the Item’s request, they are not properly following the public record’s law because it completely changed the argument for both sides.”They told us ‘A’ but then they decide that they are going to argue ‘B’ and ‘C’ in court,” he said. “How can we argue ‘A’ if ‘B’ and ‘C’ is the reason?”Cratsley did say in a footnote that the investigatory exemption did not apply in this case, meaning the DA’s initial argument was found to be insufficient.The judge did eventually rule against the Item on the basis of the privacy exemption because of the grand jury investigation.”Because this court finds no meaningful distinction between a matter ordered by the grand jury and a matter used by the grand jury, I conclude that the videotape has the characteristics of material especially prepared for the grand jury which, when received by them, should ordinarily be protected by the rule of grand jury secrecy,” he wrote.Caruso says he is considering an appeal of the ruling, and whether the appeal is filed or not, he will request a copy of the video immediately after the grand jury trial is complete.”If this is the way that courts are going to rule on these cases then we have a problem,” he said. “The basic foundation is that everybody in the public has a right to public information. You have to have a very good reason to say no, and that is why the exemptions are there. The District Attorney chose a poor exemption. Allowing them to change that exemption when they get to court means we spin our wheels arguing that their exemption doesn’t apply, which it doesn’t, while they come up with something else.”This ruling states that everything that comes before a grand jury is secret. I respectfully disagree with that ruling.”The grand jury investigating the alleged murder of Talbot was still seated as of Friday afternoon. There is no timetable for the conclusion of that investigation.

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