By Jean Torkelson, Rocky Mountain News
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
The jurors' lips remain sealed.
A 20-year legal effort to win release of potentially explosive Rocky Flats grand jury documents fell short Monday when a federal judge ruled that the jurors' testimony must stay secret.
U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch did, however, release a sea of supporting documents that pertain to the grand jury investigation, begun in 1989, over the environmental cleanup of the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant.
The grand jurors alleged that prosecutors engaged in misconduct and potentially criminal acts during the grand jury probe.
Matsch refused Monday to unseal the crucial material - the actual transcripts of the grand jurors testifying behind closed doors about alleged prosecutorial misconduct.
The material also includes a statement, called a proffer, from their attorney, Jonathan Turley, detailing his clients' charges. The questioning of the grand jurors by Turley, a nongovernment attorney, set a legal precedent.
That critical material remains out of bounds, Matsch ruled, because grand jury material enjoys a high degree of protection and can be released only under very narrow circumstances, such as a pending investigation.
Without those two critical pieces released, Monday's victory is limited, Turley said.
The documents released Monday include routine material, such as pleadings and motions.
"It's a small victory in the sense we've got some information released, but it's not what we've been fighting for since 1989 - to tell the people of Colorado and Congress what really happened inside that grand jury room," Turley said.
Turley said he's considering his options. One is to file another appeal to the 10th Circuit Court.
More immediately, he's making plans to ask Colorado's congressional delegation to mount an investigation and subpoena the transcripts.
"If Congress asked for the transcripts, the court would very likely release them," he said.
Until now, lawmakers have stood back, waiting for the legal process to play out.
The time for action has come, Turley said.
"At some point the Colorado delegation has got to help these citizens out," he said. "These are housewives and bartenders and coaches - people who committed over 20 years of their lives to trying to fulfill their oath. They swore to God they would not allow anyone to prevent them from doing their duty."
torkelsonj@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-954-5055
[This story was also covered in the Denver Post. Or for more details see The Ambushed Grand Jury.]