The federal judge in the Jared Loughner case has denied a motion by The Arizona Republic and 12 News to unseal inventories of search warrants served in the case, but he told both defense and prosecuting attorneys that as soon as they issue a superseding indictment - which is expected before March 9 - that the situation will likely change and there will no longer be a reason to keep the documents sealed.
U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns also refused to rule on a motion from Loughner's attorney, Judy Clarke, to seal mug shots of Loughner taken by U.S. Marshal's Office when he was placed in federal custody in connection with the mass shooting near Tucson last month that left six people dead and 13 others wounded, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
The Arizona news organizations had asked the courts to unseal the search-warrant inventories listing items seized from Loughner's house in two separate searches shortly after the shootings. Prosecutors and defense attorneys opposed the request.
The matter was heard in San Diego because that is the home district for Burns, who has been assigned the case.
Burns noted during the hearing Friday that most of the information in the search warrant returns has already been disseminated to the press. But he made clear that once a superseding indictment has been issued, the issue would be revisited.
Loughner's defense team also had asked Burns to seal Loughner's mug shot, which various U.S. media organizations have requested from the U.S. Marshals Service.
Such mug shots generally are not released by the federal courts except in the Sixth U.S. District, which is in the Midwest. Burns said he had no authority to overrule a decision by that district, particularly because Arizona is not a part of it.
Theoretically, that means media outlets will still be able to get to the photos of Loughner through that district.
Burns also noted that there was nothing exceptional about the photographs. Having viewed them, he noted that they were "tamer" than the photograph of Loughner that was taken by the Pima County Sheriff's Office and that has been widely circulated since the shootings.