Public records are the lifeblood of covering courts and shining light on the inner workings of the criminal justice system.
When arrests are made and those accused are charged, much of the information that's made public comes from police and prosecutors. We rely on them for initial accounts of what crimes occurred and the circumstances surrounding the incidents.
It's often later – when defense attorneys are hired or assigned to cases – that we learn more details. And because of ethics rules prohibiting lawyers from speaking publicly, we sometimes learn those details through documents in case files kept in courts throughout the state.
Through documents requested and received from the Allen County Court Clerk's office, I learned that a 62-year-old murder suspect claimed he couldn't have stabbed a woman to death because of the arthritis in his hands. In a separate case, a 16-year-old charged in a 2019 shooting death begged to be freed and blamed another person for the killing.
Neither of those revelations would have come to light without public records, which are necessary to gaining a full, accurate picture of court proceedings and how courts operate.
Matthew LeBlanc covers courts and the judicial system for The Journal Gazette.