Janklow case will remain partially open

U.S. Rep. Bill Janklow, R-S.D., will face trial Dec. 1 for second-degree manslaughter. On Tuesday, the judge in his case decided to allow some court documents and part of the hearing to remain open during the trial. He ruled against the wishes of Janklow’s lawyers to keep documents and the trial closed after 19 media organizations hired a lawyer and argued to keep the proceedings open. The judge’s decision is only a partial victory for the media.

Janklow’s situation has not yet been politicized by members of Congress. Even if convicted, congressional members believe it is unlikely he will be expelled – a punishment invoked only three times during the Civil War and twice in recent years. In the recent cases, members of Congress felt the representatives misused their position of power. The public, on the other hand, will quickly convict Janklow in the court of the media. His image was already tarnished by reports of his previous speeding records and local reputation for unsafe driving.

Janklow’s lawyers insisted that releasing documents and opening the hearings would taint the jury pool. However, it is hard to imagine any evidence that could do further damage to his public reputation. One woman has even come forward to say Janklow almost hit her family but she declined to file charges because he was the governor. The judge’s decision is merely an attempt to limit media coverage and soften the congressman’s fall. If convicted, the ruling will speak for itself and Janklow will inevitably face the scrutiny he deserves.