Dear 100 Hour Board,
How does one find and follow the proceedings of a criminal case? The news tends to report crimes when they happen, but then interest drops off and no updates follow, except for high profile things. There have been several cases recently in which the mental health or motive of the suspect is really unclear, or where exactly what happened isn't really known, and I've wanted to follow a case to completion after it stopped being sensational news. Can court records be found and viewed while the trial is in progress? Is it even possible to find out when the trial itself is?
You can indeed find such information! Note because this question is law related, though you're just asking how to find information and not for legal advice: I am not a lawyer (not admitted to any bar). This answer is not legal advice. If you need legal advice about something, you should talk to a lawyer, which I am not, and get advice from a lawyer, which this is not.
A lot of trials and cases and court documents will be publicly available, though some may not.
If you're in Utah, this site will give you links and information on accessing court records.
Let's walk through a simple example.
Let's say you're interested in following a case that you saw on the news. It goes to trial in the Provo District Court. You can check the Calendar to see if it's upcoming on the court's schedule. (Here's the Provo one.)
If you want to look up documents/records on the case while it's at the district court level, my impression is that you've got two options, both given on that first website I linked you to about accessing records: You can either go to the courthouse and do your own research, or you pay for documents through XChange.
Then, say your case moves up to the appellate level:
At this point you can get information on the cases: closed briefs are available some places online and current briefs can be viewed at the Clerk's Office (as can other case documents. Oral argument recordings are also available. If you're just interested in seeing the 'docket' of what happened to the case, you can view that online if you've got the docket number. If you're interested in live proceedings, you can check the oral argument calendar for the appellate court.
The supreme court level:
See this page.
So, unfortunately, following a case after the media isn't reporting on it may require increasing investment on your part, either in paying for XChange or in spending time at the courthouse to either get documents or watch proceedings. But if you're interested enough, there are ways to get a lot of records and such. I've linked to Utah resources, but searching "[state] [court level] [docket/calendar/etc]" would probably be a good starting point in other locales.
I've heard it's fairly easy to follow the proceedings of your own criminal case so
Keep it real,