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Federal judge allows access to Smart case records

Federal judge allows access to Smart case records



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A federal judge on Monday ordered sealed court docket entries related to the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping case made public.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball said there was no reason to keep them sealed and that the court didn't know some entries were not public because the an internal computer record differs from the public record.

The order keeps some documents closed -- for now -- including competency reports about Brian David Mitchell, who is charged in Smart's 2002 kidnapping.

Kimball's ruling also said most hearings, including those about whether to exclude the reports as evidence, will be open. He said he may close portions of hearings if the information to be discussed might impede Mitchell's right to a fair trial or involve the privacy right of anyone involved in the case.

Attorneys for Utah media organizations sought to intervene in the case last week, pushing for all closed records to be public. Attorney Michael O'Brien also sought access to an Oct. 30 hearing, which was to be closed for the discussion of competency reports and other potentially prejudicial evidence.

Kimball's ruling allows for media attorneys to participate in closed discussions during the hearing.

O'Brien said Monday that Kimball's ruling was "good news for access" and that the court continues to evolve toward more openness.

Smart was 14 when she was abducted on June 5, 2002 from her Salt Lake City home at knifepoint. She was found in March 2003 walking with Mitchell and Wanda Eileen Barzee, his now estranged wife.

Mitchell and Barzee were indicted by a federal grand jury in 2008 on charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor. They also face multiple felonies in state court. The state cases have been hampered by competency issues.

Mitchell, 55, was twice found incompetent for trial in state court. A 10-day federal court competency proceeding is scheduled to begin Nov. 30.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Jennifer Dobner Writer

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