MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minnesota judge has ordered the release of files related to the investigation into Jacob Wetterling’s kidnapping and murder.
District Judge Ann L. Carrott ruled that any files connected to the investigation of a criminal case become public record once the case is concluded.
“The plaintiff’s family tragedy had a profound effect on the people of Minnesota. In many ways, Jacob Wetterling’s kidnapping on a dirt road in a small rural town in Minnesota made us all feel less safe,” Carrott wrote. “While the court has great personal empathy for the Wetterlings, the court must impartially apply the law, unswayed by emotion. To do so otherwise would result in an unfair application of the law.”
The ruling comes as the legal battle between the Wetterlings and several Twin Cities media companies continues. The files were expected to be released in 2016. Last month, a judge ruled that thousands of print, video and audio files in the Wetterling case would remain sealed and be returned to the FBI.
The Wetterlings have been fighting to keep 22 of the more than 10,000 investigative files sealed to protect their right to privacy.
“This has been a long journey, and although we were saddened to hear Judge Carrott’s ruling on our case, we are thankful for her careful consideration of our concerns,” the Wetterlings said in statement released by their legal team. “From the beginning, we have witnessed firsthand the integrity and accuracy of the Minnesota news media. They have set the bar very high, and have always treated our family with respect and dignity. We trust that this high level of reporting will continue.”
The Stearns County Attorney’s Office said that they are waiting for notice of appeal (or that there will be no appeal), and that both parties have 60 days to make a decision. Only then will they set a release date for the documents in question.
WCCO-TV is not one of the media companies involved in the case against the Wetterlings.