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Appeals Court Orders Release of Roman Polanski Transcript

roman polanski
Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A three-judge appellate panel ordered the release of a transcript in the Roman Polanski case on Wednesday, one day after the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office withdrew its objection to disclosing the document.

Two authors, Sam Wasson and William Rempel, had asked the court to unseal the transcript of a 2010 examination of Roger Gunson, the retired prosecutor who handled the case against Polanski in 1977. Polanski has been a fugitive ever since fleeing to France in 1978, shortly before he was to be sentenced for raping a 13-year-old girl.

Polanski and his supporters have often argued that Judge Laurence Rittenband engaged in serious misconduct and reneged on a promise to sentence him to no more than a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. Gunson was interviewed for the 2008 documentary “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” which brought greater scrutiny to the handling of the case. He also testified behind closed doors for three days in 2010, as Polanski’s defense lawyers were seeking to have the case dismissed. Gunson has accused Rittenband of acting inappropriately and claimed that his own supervisors prevented him from trying to remove the judge from the case.

The D.A.’s office has previously opposed release of the Gunson transcript and has also objected to Polanski’s efforts to dismiss the case or to be sentenced in absentia. But George Gascón, who was elected D.A. in 2020, reversed the office’s position on releasing the transcript on Monday. Tiffiny Blacknell, a special advisor to Gascón, also told Variety that the office is interested in reviewing the case with “fresh eyes,” and will decide its next steps after seeing what the transcript says.

In its order on Wednesday, the appeals court took note of the D.A.’s reversal, stating “we agree with the People that there is no factual or legal basis for the conditional deposition transcript to remain sealed.”

The court also quoted its own ruling from 2009, in which the appeals court urged the lower court to investigate the allegations of misconduct in the Polanski case. At the time, the court wrote, “Fundamental fairness and justice in our criminal justice system are far more important than the conviction and sentence of any one individual… Polanski’s allegations urgently require full exploration and then, if indicated, curative action for the abuses alleged here.”

Polanski’s lawyer, Harland Braun, said Tuesday that he may renew his efforts to resolve the case once the transcript is released.

Gascón issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon, noting that the victim in the case, Samantha Geimer, had asked that the transcript be unsealed. Gascón also suggested an interest in obtaining “closure” in the case.

“The court’s decision helped us move toward upholding our responsibility to tell the public the truth, and to listen to survivors,” he said. “We hope it gives her a small measure of assurance that eventually, she can have some measure of closure in this decades-long litigation.”