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DISTRICT COURT, WELD COUNTY, COLORADO Court Address: 901 9" Avenue, P.O. Box 2038 Greeley, Colorado 80632 Phone Number: (970) 351-7300 VERIFIED PETITION IN RE: ‘THE REQUEST OF THE GREELEY TRIBUNE FOR CERTAIN RECORDS PURSUANT TO THE COLORADO OPEN RECORDS ACT, C.RS. §§ 24- 72-201, ET SEQ. U0 FOR COURT USE ONLY 0 Bruce T. Barker, Weld County Attorney Karin McDougal, Assistant County Attorney Case Number: 1150 0 Street Divis P.O. Box 758 vision: Greeley, CO 80632 Phone Number: (970) 400-4390 Fax Number: (970) 352-0242 E-Mail: kmedougal@weldgov.com Attorney Registration #48541 VERIFIED PETITION PURSUANT TO C.RS. § 24-72-204(6)(a) COMES NOW, Carl Blesch, in his official capacity as Weld County Coroner, County of Weld, State of Colorado, by and through the undersigned Assistant of Bruce T. Barker, Weld County Attorney, and hereby submits this Verified Petition Pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-72-204(6)(a), and requests the Court prohibit the disclosure of the contents of the records as such disclosure would do substantial injury to the public interest. As grounds therefore, Mr. Blesch states as follows: 1. This action is brought before the Court by Mr. Blesch, Coroner for Weld County, and official custodian of the documents being sought, pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-72-204(6)(a). 2. Pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-72-204(6)(a), jurisdiction and venue are proper in the District Court in and for the County of Weld, Colorado. BACKGROUND 3, On August 17, 2018, the Weld County Coroner's Office caused forensic autopsies to be conducted on the persons of Shanann Watts, Bella Watts and Celeste Watts, 4. Onor about August 21, 2018, Christopher Watts was charged in the death of Shanann Watts, Bella Watts and Celeste Watts. 5. Onorabout September 17, 2018, Michae! Rourke, Weld County District, Attorney, filed a Motion to Deny Disclosure of Public Records Pursuant to C.R.S. Section 24-72- 204(6)(a), to deny disclosure of the autopsy reports of the above referenced individuals. 6. Onor about September 24, 2018, the autopsy reports on all three victims were completed and submitted to the Weld County Coroner's Office. 7. On or about October 4, 2018, Carl Blesch, Weld County Coroner, received a Colorado Open Records Act request from Joe Moylan, Reporter at the Greeley Tribune for the autopsy reports of Shannan, Bella and Celeste Watts, pursuant to 24-72-203, C.R.S. Other identical or substantially similar requests have also been made under the same provisions of the Colorado Open Records Act, These requests were not fulfilled based on the Motion to Deny Disclosure filed by the District Attorney. 8 On or about October 12, 2018, the Court overseeing the criminal case denied the District Attorney's Motion to Deny Disclosure of autopsy reports based on the inability to consider the request due to a lack of subject matter jurisdiction. STATUTORY AND LEGAL AUTHORITY 9. Statutory Authority: CARS. § 24-72-204(6)(a), says the following: (a) If, in the opinion of the official custodian of any public record, disclosure of the contents of said record would do substantial injury to the public interest, notwithstanding the fact that said record might otherwise be available to public inspection or if the official custodian is unable, in good faith, after exercising reasonable diligence, and after reasonable inquiry, to determine if disclosure of the public record is prohibited pursuant to this part 2, the official custodian may apply to the district court of the district in which such record is located for an order permitting him or her to restrict such disclosure or for the court to determine if disclosure is prohibited. Hearing on such application shall be held at the earliest 2 practical time, In the case of a record that is otherwise available to public inspection pursuant to this part 2, after a hearing, the court may, upon a finding that disclosure would cause substantial injury to the public interest, issue an order authorizing the official custodian to restrict disclosure. In the case of a record that may be prohibited from disclosure pursuant to this part 2, ater a hearing, the court may, upon a finding that disclosure of the record is prohibited, issue an order directing the official custodian not to disclose the record to the public, In an action brought pursuant to this paragraph (a), the burden of proof shall be upon the custodian, The person seeking permission to examine the record shall have notice of said hearing served upon him or her in the manner provided for service of process by the Colorado rules of civil procedure and shall have the right to appear and be heard, The attorney fees provision of subsection (5) of this section shall not apply in cases brought pursuant to this paragraph (a) by an official custodian who is unable to determine if disclosure of a public record is prohibited under this part 2 if the official custodian proves and the court finds that the custodian, in good faith, after exercising reasonable diligence, and after making reasonable inquiry, was unable to determine if disclosure of the public record was prohibited without aruling by the court. 10. Relevant case law includes: Bodelson v. Denver Pub. Co. § P.3d 373, (Colo. App 2006), which states that autopsy reports of vietims and perpetrators could fall within CORA’s substantial injury to the public interest exemption and that the trial court had jurisdiction to prohibit disclosure of perpetrator’s and victim’s autopsy record under that CORA exemption. ANALYSIS 11, Carl Blesch, Weld County Coroner, is the official custodian of the record. 12, Part of the Weld County Coroner's duty is to work the District Attomey’s Office and Public Defender’s office when autopsy reports are needed in criminal cases. 13, Mr. Blesch, as official custodian of the autopsy reports in this matter, has consulted with the Weld County District Attorney in this case and reviewed the Motion to Deny Disclosure of Public Records filed on September 17, 2018. Based on consultations with the District Attorney, Mr, Blesch’s review of the autopsy reports and the above referenced Motion to Deny Disclosure, Mr. Blesch concurs with the District Attorney's reasoning for requesting that autopsy reports remain confidential and that if released during the pendency of the still ongoing investigation, would substantially injure the public interest. (See Exhibit A — Blesch Affidavit) 14, Specifically, Mr. Blesch has no reason to doubt District Attorney Michael Rourke in his opinion as a prosecutor and Officer of the Court when he states through his Motion, that 3