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County attorney: Request to seal certain Interstate 10 shooter documents was to ensure fairness

PHOENIX — A request to seal some documents during a trial of a man accused of opening fire on several vehicles on Interstate 10 in the Phoenix area was to protect the integrity of proceedings, the county attorney said Wednesday.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said the move was not intended to impede freedom of the press. Instead, he said he wanted to avoid a potential media circus that breeds rumors.

“Mere speculation or salacious innuendo can be substituted for fact,” he said. “In the pursuit of justice sober analysis, not first to print or first to report, is what guides us.”

A judge denied the motion to seal the those documents. Despite that, Montgomery said his office will do what it can to protect the suspect’s right to a fair trial.

“The race for ratings is different than the pursuit of justice,” he said. “In the race for ratings, there are no rules for procedure to protect the rights of all participants and, in the race for ratings, there is no standard for trustworthiness or credibility.”

A judge also denied a motion by the defense Tuesday to question Gov. Doug Ducey in the case. Attorneys for Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. wanted to know exactly what the governor knew when he tweeted out the words “we got him” the night of Merritt’s arrest.

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