Dennis Romboy reports:
Whether a dead person has a right to privacy is at issue in the case of a prominent Salt Lake restaurateur who was allegedly murdered by his estranged husband.
John Williams filed for divorce from Craig Crawford about two weeks before Crawford allegedly set fire to their Capitol Hill home where firefighters found Williams dead in an upstairs bedroom on May 22.
In the days before his death, Williams petitioned in 3rd District Court for a temporary restraining order against Crawford, but Commissioner Michelle Blomquist denied the request. Crawford also sought a protective order against Williams that the commissioner denied.
Court documents in divorce cases are closed under a rule the Utah Judicial Council adopted in 2012 and the Utah Supreme Court then approved.
The Deseret News and KSL have asked the court to unseal the case file, arguing that the public’s constitutional right of access to court records is not subservient to a judicial rule.
“This is not a usual divorce case because of the fact that one of the parties is dead,” David Reymann, a lawyer for the news organizations told Blomquist in a hearing Tuesday.
Reymann also contends that legitimate public interest in the case outweighs the need for secrecy. He said the news outlets don’t want the records for salacious purposes but to allow the public to assess the function and accountability of the court system.
Read more KSL.
I actually agree with the media here. If a court denied requests for a restraining order and a protective order and then the individual is murdered, I think the public has a legitimate question as to the functioning of the court system and the records should be unsealed. This is not about divorce any more. This is about whether individuals seeking protection from a court were failed by the court system.