The opinion of the court was delivered by: PENN
JOHN GARRETT PENN, District Judge.
This comes before the court on the Application of the Washington Post to unseal portions of transcripts of three bench conferences in the case of United States v. Treadwell, 566 F. Supp. 80 (D.D.C.1983), presently in trial.
The portions of the transcript which were sealed consist of a bench conference held on June 16, 1983 and two held on June 21, 1983. Subsequent to the filing of the application, two additional bench conferences were placed under seal, those conferences being held on June 24, 1983. All bench conferences relate to the same matter and the Court treats the application as requesting the unsealing of the transcripts of all five bench conferences.
Before addressing the merits of the application, and in order to place the application for unsealing of the record in context, it is necessary to briefly set forth the history of the related case. On February 22, 1982, an indictment was filed against Mary Treadwell, Robert E. Lee, Joan M. Booth, Charles W. Rinker, Jr. and Ronald S. Williams. Thereafter, Mr. Lee, Mr. Williams and Ms. Booth entered guilty pleas to portions of the indictment, and the charges against Mr. Rinker were dismissed by the government. The only remaining defendant is Mary Treadwell and her trial began on May 31, 1983, when the Court began the jury selection process. Voir dire was completed on June 7, 1983 and a jury of twelve regular jurors and six alternate jurors was selected and sworn on June 8, 1983.
Opening statements were made the same day.
The defendant is charged with conspiracy, false statements, mail fraud,
wire fraud and tax evasion which allegedly occurred when she was the director and/or chief executive officer of various organizations including P.I. Properties, Inc., Pride International, Inc., Sticks and Stones, Inc., Youth Pride Economic Enterprises, Inc., Pride Economic Enterprises Special Police, Pride Environmental Services, Inc., T. Barry Associates, Inc. and Youth Pride, Inc. The indictment charges that the defendant and others, including Lee, Booth, Rinker and Williams, conspired to commit a number of offenses against the United States and that the object of the conspiracy was to use P.I. Properties, a nonprofit organization, to acquire Clifton Terrace, and to thereafter misappropriate, misapply, divert, and steal monies and assets from Clifton Terrace and other housing projects owned or managed by P.I. Properties.
Ms. Treadwell is the former wife of the present Mayor of the District of Columbia, Mayor Marion Barry. She is also the former wife of Ronald Williams, and the sister of Joan Booth, alleged co-conspirators. Because of this and because the Pride organization and the Clifton Terrace project have generated considerable publicity over the past several years, it was necessary to call a jury panel of 175 potential jurors for possible selection as jurors in this case. Since there has been so much publicity concerning this case, and since heavy press and media coverage was expected during the trial, it was also necessary to consider the possibility of sequestering the jury and a large number of the panel were excused because, for one reason or another, they were unavailable to sit as members of a sequestered jury. Other jurors were eliminated because they were not reasonably available to sit as jurors in a trial which might take six or more weeks.
The Court and counsel conducted a very careful individual voir dire of the members of the jury panel in order to select a fair and impartial jury to hear this case. As noted, the parties expect that this trial will last six weeks or more exluding the time that was necessary to select the jury. Since the trial has begun, the court has carefully monitored the local newspapers, and to the extent possible, radio and television coverage of the case. The case has received heavy coverage in the press and media. The jury is regularly admonished concerning reading, listening to and looking at any accounts of the trial or anything which may concern the case, the parties, the witnesses, the housing projects or counsel in the case.
"Absent an overriding interest articulated in findings, the trial of a criminal case must be open to the public." Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555, 581, 100 S. Ct. 2814, 2829-2830, 65 L. Ed. 2d 973 (1980).
It is also well settled that representatives of an excluded group must be given the opportunity to present the grounds for their objection to exclusion. Globe Newspaper Co. v. Superior Court for the County of Norfolk, 457 U.S. 596, 102 S. Ct. 2613, 2622 n. 25, 73 L. Ed. 2d 248 (1982), citing Gannett Co. v. DePasquale, 443 U.S. 368, 401, 99 S. Ct. 2898, 2916, 61 L. Ed. 2d 608 (1979) (Powell, J., concurring).
But, the right of access to the proceedings in court is not absolute. Richmond Newspapers, 448 U.S. at 581 n. 18, 100 S. Ct. at 2830 n.18; Gannett Co., 443 U.S. at 398, 99 S. Ct. at 2915 (Powell, J., concurring). The trial judge may employ his/her discretion to impose reasonable restrictions to preserve the fair administration of justice, including the exclusion of the public and press from conferences at the bench and in chambers. Globe Newspaper Co., 102 S. Ct. at 2622 n. 25; Richmond Newspapers, 448 U.S. at 598 n. 23, 100 S. Ct. at 2839 n. 23 (Brennan, J., concurring).
Most importantly, access to the proceedings is limited by defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial and the government's need to obtain just convictions. Gannett Co., 443 U.S. at 398, 99 S. Ct. at 2915 (Powell, J., concurring).