Appeals Court Orders Secret Testimony In Polanski Case Unsealed

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The California Appeals Court in Los Angeles on Wednesday ordered the Los Angeles County Superior Court to reverse itself and unseal hitherto hidden testimony in the long-running Roman Polanski sex case.

The order cited the need for public examination of claims that Polanski’s rights were violated by the court and prosecutors both before and after he fled the country before final sentencing in the case, which has been before the court for over four decades.

The current request to unseal testimony by a former prosecutor, Roger Gunson, was pressed by journalists Sam Wasson and William Rempel. They and their lead attorney, John Washington, argued that state law and public interest required the court to reveal what Gunson had said in a session that was held from the public. At the time, Gunson was ill, and it was feared that he might not survive to testify in any final adjudication of the case; it is widely believed that his testimony would support those who claim that the original judge in the matter, Laurence Rittenband, violated law and court standards in abandoning a plea deal with Polanski, because of press reports and based on ex parte contact with the district attorney’s office.

In granting the order, the appeals court said Gunson’s testimony was “not an ordinary conditional examination,” and thus did not bring safety concerns that might require secrecy. It also cited its own earlier ruling stating that Polanski’s allegation of irregularities “urgently require full exploration.”

The order came after Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon suddenly reversed his opposition to the unsealing.

In a statement, Washington said:

“These proceedings were not about Roman Polanski’s actions. They were about the First Amendment right of the public and press to know about what judges and prosecutors do in our courts, and the limits on the DA and Court in sealing that information.”

It was not immediately clear when or how the Superior Court might comply, and unseal the Gunson testimony.

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