PHOENIX (AP) – A judge has ordered the release of the court record that documents the evidence police have gathered in the investigation of a Phoenix man accused in a string of serial killings, according to the judge’s ruling made public Thursday.
The ruling came after The Associated Press, Arizona Republic and five TV stations asked for the record to be unsealed in the case against Aaron Juan Saucedo, who is accused of killing nine people.
Prosecutors wanted to keep the information secret as they continue their investigation of Saucedo, prompting the news organizations to go to court to get the material released to the public.
The news organizations argued it was in the public’s interest to know the evidence detectives compiled against the suspect accused of the shootings of people mostly in front of their homes or in cars that terrified several Phoenix neighborhoods last year.
Superior Court Judge Scott McCoy said prosecutors must release the document, but can redact identifying information about victims to protect their privacy. McCoy also wrote that prosecutors can leave out other details, but must justify why releasing such information would harm the case.
Saucedo has been charged with murder in one killing. He also was booked on suspicion of murder in eight other shooting deaths, but charges have not yet been filed in those crimes. Saucedo declared that he was innocent when he appeared before a judge.
Police have said the victims were shot by a man who was sitting in a car or had just stepped out of his vehicle. The killings occurred over nearly a one-year period starting in August 2015, mostly in a largely Latino neighborhood.
Police arrested Saucedo last week but authorities provided little information about what evidence links Saucedo to the crimes, refusing to release a document that explains the probable cause that is typically made public after an arrest.
While granting a prosecution request to conceal the names of victims, the judge rejected prosecutors’ assertions that releasing the document would threaten the due-process rights of Saucedo and the victims.
In seeking to keep the record private, a prosecutor had pointed to recent reporting by the Arizona Republic.
Reporters showed a photo of Saucedo to one of the witnesses, who told the newspaper the mugshot didn’t look like the shooter. A lawyer representing the news organizations said the reporters’ actions did not harm the investigation.
The judge pointed out that the reporters approached the witness after police had already talked to him and asked him to identify Saucedo in a photo lineup.
The news organizations seeking the release of the records are The Associated Press, The Arizona Republic, ABC15 (KNXV-TV), Azfamily.com (KTVK-TV), CBS 5 (KPHO-TV), Telemundo of Arizona and 12 News (KPNX-TV).
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