Last night I wrote about the arraignment of retired Portland Police officer Scott Groshong, one of the rare instances where it seems that a police officer in Portland could face actual consequences for actions that occurred while on duty. I just received the audio recordings of his arraignment hearing earlier today, and while I hadn’t really thought about it before now, I’m both surprised and not surprised at the level of privilege that a retired cop is given in the courts.
Normally when a suspect is arrested in relation to a crime, they are interviewed at the jail for a ‘recognizance assessment’. This is where they’re fingerprinted, have a background check done for past charges, and other things to help determine their flight risk before trial. A lot of times, people are eligible to be released on their own recognizance, because they’ve been in the area for an extended time, have a stable job, or a lack of criminal history. Other times, a judge may have to weigh in, such as based on the charges involved or other events. (For comparison, Alan Swinney, while he didn’t have a past record to worry about, the fact that he was new in the area, only receives government disability, and the nature of his charges were enough for a judge to deny his release last week.) A lot of times these reports are available as part of the court record, and may include the defendants address and phone number.
Obviously, the ideal in our criminal justice system is that people are innocent until proven guilty, but as a society, we also have a desire for instant justice, and people have been known to use records to doxx individuals, putting them and their families at risk.
That is the concern that Mr. Groshong and his attorney brought up in court during his arraignment, the fact that he had a wife and two children, combined with the fact that he was a retired police officer, and had requested that his address and phone number be sealed on court records. Later in the day, the court addressed that the information was still available through Odyssey, a state system used for E-filing of certain court documents, and the order was expanded to seal those records as well. The prosecution raised no objections to the request.
While I can applaud the care that the court took to protect this person’s personal information, it strikes me that it’s unlikely that most people that enter our criminal system get this same privilege. As I reported previously, when Multnomah County Close Street Supervision (a section of the Sherriff’s office) evaluated Alan Swinney for his release, they accidently released his address and the name of the person he was living with onto the court record, and later admitted that the error would cause a need for extra work to protect him if he was released pre-trial. I’ve also viewed a number of these recognizance reports firsthand, and many criminal dockets show defendants addresses.
At this time, I have no idea how many people request the court to redact their records for their own protection, and of those who do if the state ever files objections. But this, combined with the fact that there is talk of legislation in the state being proposed to make doxxing a crime, while at the same time leaving enough loopholes that almost all cases of significant doxxing that happen at the current moment would still be legal, gives me more reason to be concerned at just how much care is taken to make sure that people who have not been found guilty of a crime are being protected.
In the meantime, though, I do have the audio from last week’s arraignment hearing. The audio quality isn’t very good, I suspect a combination of the court rooms where these hearings are held and the fact that Mr. Groshong and his attorney were appearing by phone.
Editor’s Note: Because of the rapid-fire nature of these arraignment hearings and a lack of correct notations on the record by the court clerk, there is a significant amount of chatter that is not related to this case. Normally I would attempt to trim out the excess, but because anyone that makes a request of the county for the recordings of this hearing (a relatively simple process) would get the same audio, I’ve decided to upload the same audio I was provided.
For The Record Player
Size: 10668276 bytes (10 MiB)
I went ahead and converted the audio to an MP3 version for universal listening without any proprietary software.
Size: 6937080 bytes (6774 KiB)