Salem News fights for, gets documents in Chism case

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 11.04.30 AMIf you think the public is entitled to know about the security arrangements (or lack thereof) for 15-year-old murder suspect Philip Chism, then you should thank The Salem News.

Chism, charged with murdering Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer, recently attacked a female youth worker at a detention center in Dorchester. The News went to court and asked that documents related to the case be released.

Today the News’ court reporter, Julie Manganis, writes that prosecutor Kate MacDougall had expressed concerns ahead of time that Chism should not be left alone with female staff. We also learn that Chism allegedly attacked the youth worker with a pencil, then “choked and beat her about the head.”

Even more alarming, MacDougall recently raised concerns about serious security lapses at the state’s Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital, where Chism is now being held.

The documents are online here.

This is important public-interest journalism, and it wouldn’t be possible if the News hadn’t been willing to devote legal resources to arguing for the release of the documents. The First Amendment requires that court proceedings be open to all. Good for the News, and good for Superior Court Judge Howard Whitehead, who ordered that the information be made public.