Lawyers object to released files

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Stacy Vogel
Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Attorneys for James Koepp want a judge to order the state Department of Corrections to stop releasing information such as that used in a Janesville Gazette article Sunday.

Koepp is the only suspect in the triple murder of Danyetta Lentz and her children, Nicole and Scott, in a Janesville trailer park last month.

Koepp's attorneys, Lawrence Peterson and Walter Isaacson, will file a motion Thursday seeking a temporary injunction against the department's file on him.

The attorneys will argue that information in the Gazette article came from a mix of public and private records and will hurt their client's chances for a fair trial, Peterson said.

"It's important for the public to have information ...but it's also important for the defendant to get a fair trial," Peterson said.

Gazette reporter Ann Marie Ames wrote an article detailing Koepp's legal history based on a 530-page file from the Department of Corrections.

Officials blacked out Koepp's medical information and personal information about other people.

The file spanned more than 20 years and contained logs written by Koepp's probation and parole officers, letters of support from family and friends, and letters from Koepp.

The department violated its own regulations by allowing a reporter to review the information without telling Koepp's attorneys, Peterson said.

"We would prefer that the department followed its own regulations and gave us an opportunity to object before they released it, but they decided not to follow their regulations, and now they'll have to answer for it," he said.

Some information appeared to come from "pre-sentencing investigations" in previous cases, which are confidential, Peterson said.

The Department of Corrections denied that any of the information was private.

"We believe these are public records that we're obligated to release under the public records law," said Alec Loftus, a spokesman for the department.

Koepp's attorneys subpoenaed more than a dozen people to testify in Thursday's hearing, Peterson said, including Ames.

The Gazette believes the documents are public records and that the subpoena of Ames is unnecessary. As a result, it is seeking to have the subpoena quashed.

The Gazette obtained the documents simply by requesting them, and Koepp's attorneys can do the same without involving Ames, Editor Scott Angus said.

"In Wisconsin, a court should only consider requiring a reporter to give up information or notes if that information cannot be obtained in any other way. That's clearly not the case here," Angus said.

The Gazette also plans to oppose the attorneys' attempt to seal the documents. The newspaper believes the court could find an impartial jury despite the news coverage, Angus said.

The hearing on the injunction motion will begin at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in Rock County Court.

Last updated: 1:17 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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