Don't close the Lakin trial

By The Madison County Record | Jul 15, 2007

While we understand his intentions and respect his position, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Clark needn't attempt to close the courtroom to media members and the public when juveniles testify in the drug and sexual abuse trial of plaintiff's lawyer Tom Lakin next January.

We, for one, have no plans to reveal their identities in this newspaper. And its safe to say our media peers don't either. We've all covered similarly sensitive matters in the past, and we've all managed to do it responsibly.

The fact of the matter is that this important trial against a man who used money and power to intimidate so many, for so long, cannot be held private. And if Mr. Clark gets his request, it largely will be.

To be sure, a good deal, if not much, of the prosecution's testimony will come from juveniles. Sealing the courtroom for large swathes of time will assure the case against Mr. Lakin remains secret. That's not in the public interest.

As we've opined previously on these pages, Tom Lakin won't share the blame if he's found guilty as charged. But he'll hardly be the only one culpable. Plenty of Madison County adults-- parents, local police and prosecutors-- had chances to intervene while these alleged crimes were in progress, but couldn't muster the courage. They'll suffer through the details of this trial just like Mr. Lakin, as well they should.

If only anonymously, our traumatized communities need to hear from the juvenile victims and witnesses of Lakin's alleged deeds. They need to know what their inaction has wrought; the price those we're supposed to protect have paid for our local leaders' cowardice.

Indeed, the details of crimes alleged in this case are salacious, sordid and disturbing. They'll make us uncomfortable. We'll cringe, cower and cry. But we need to hear them. We need to hear the horrible, unvarnished truth, if only so we're all determined not to let it happen again.

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