Cops, DA Refuse to Name Driver in Crash That Killed Teen: Robert A. Bertsche Quoted in Salem News

Neither the local Marblehead (MA) police department nor the Essex County district attorney is releasing the name of the driver who struck and killed a Marblehead High School student on August 24, 2009.  The Salem News filed a request in writing seeking the driver’s name, the police report and any other reports related to the accident.  The agencies involved, however, claim that they cannot release that information while the accident is still under investigation.

Salem News attorney Robert Bertsche disputed the authorities’ interpretation of the law. “This law, the public records law, is aimed at ensuring that the people know what the government is doing,” he said.

Bertsche said the “investigatory” exemption permits, but does not require, authorities to withhold information. To legally keep information from the public, the government must prove that the details of an incident, if disclosed, would somehow prejudice law enforcement’s case.

“It’s not a question of ‘who done it.’ They know who did it,” Bertsche said. “It would be one thing if the suspect were on the loose and didn’t know (he) was being sought. That’s simply not the case here.  When information is not given out, it breeds suspicion and breeds rumor,” he said. “When they don’t reveal the name of the person involved, it invariably raises questions like what is being hidden and why is it being hidden.”

Click here to read the complete news article, and click here to read the recent editorial on this issue published in the September 14, 2009 edition of The Salem News.