Wash. lawyers challenge secret court proceedings
Friday, May 25, 2012
SEATTLE (AP) -- A case out of Benton County provides a rare look at little-known secret court proceedings in Washington state.
Lawyers for Alfredo Ahumada Ozuna Jr. want his drug charges thrown out, saying authorities used a "special inquiry judge proceeding" to obtain his bank records without a search warrant. Attorney Lenell Nussbaum says the Benton County prosecutor has been routinely using the secret hearings to get subpoenas, and that violates privacy protections in the Washington Constitution as well as open government principles.
Benton County prosecutors say they were simply following the 1971 law authorizing the proceedings. Prosecutors say they make for more efficient investigations and have plenty of judicial oversight. The hearings function like grand juries, but with a judge instead of jurors.
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