One of the cooperating witnesses admitted to seven murders and testified in
open court against co-defendants who had committed fewer, Christ said. But like
the others who pleaded guilty and cooperated, that witness' plea deal and
sentence were sealed.
"Cooperating witnesses are pleading guilty to six or
seven murders, and the jury doesn't know they'll be sitting on the Metro
(subway) next to them a year later. It's a really, really ugly system," Christ
The AP found thousands of cases sealed by the Feds over the past three years in which cooperative felons were released in exchange for testimony. The secretive nature of these deals conceals their effects from our communities. The Feds have gone past sealed cases to the institution of secret dockets.
No matter how few turn out to be almost totally sealed after the
defendant's case was completed, "it's still significant," said Lucy Dalglish,
executive director of the Reporters Committee and a pioneer in campaigning
against court secrecy.
"The Supreme Court has said that criminal proceedings
are public," Dalglish added. "In this country, we don't prosecute and lock up
convicts and have no public track record of how we got there. That violates the
defendants' rights not to mention the public's right to know what it's court
system is doing."