CASPER, Wyo. -- A who’s who list of Wyoming defense attorneys crowded inside a Natrona County District courtroom on Friday to argue for their clients’ right to view evidence against them. The lone state representative, Assistant District Attorney Randall Carnahan, stood on the opposing end, hoping to protect sensitive information from further circulating around the Natrona County drug world.
After a recent large-scale meth bust, Carnahan said several documents that had been provided to the defendants in discovery had been copied and disseminated outside of the legal realm.
Carnahan said the situation was a reccurring problem around the community.
“It could compromise investigative techniques or could put individual citizens and confidential informants at jeopardy,” he said.
The state filed a motion for a blanket protection order on all documents, which would mean defendants could only view the information while in the presence of their attorneys.
Carnahan admitted that the motion was a bit belated, but hoped the standard could be set for future correspondences.
“I’m not trying to undo what’s been done,” he said.
The state attorney was outnumbered about 10 to one by defense counsels -- both in the courtroom and on a conference call -- nearly all of whom vehemently opposed the request.
Natrona County Public Defender Robert Oldham spoke first, essentially on behalf of all the other counsels.
“The state creates its own monster and then wants a restriction,” he told District Judge Catherine Wilking.
Oldham argued that the state provided each attorney with so much irrelevant information for each case that much of the problem could have been prevented in the first place.
Oldham objected to the motion, arguing that the defendants had a right to an adequate amount of time to digest the documents that will be used against them.
“This is their freedom that’s at stake,” he said.
The defense attorneys’ statements that followed mostly echoed Oldham’s sentiments, but with slightly different nuances specific to each case. One argued that he didn’t live in town, and his client would have to drive all the way to Laramie to view the documents. Another couldn’t speak one way or another, as she was unable to speak with her client.
Most conceded that if the state were more specific about which documents should be safeguarded, the protection order wouldn’t be as much of an issue.
Wilking agreed that the defendants have a right to timely discovery, and that the state’s blanket request was overly broad. Although conceding it would be a large burden on the state, Wilking deferred judgment and ordered Carnahan to whittle down exactly which documents were to not be disseminated. She allowed 30 days in which do to so.
After the hearing, Carnahan said because of pending litigation he was unable to comment on the state’s next move.