Friday, June 19, 2015

Judge Softens Gag Order, Still Doesn't Get It

Turns out the judge in the Athens-Clarke cop-killer has eased the gag order he issued earlier that caused all kinds of excitement, attention -- and valid criticism.

After all, the order was clearly unconstitutional, something you'd expect a judge to kinda get because, ya know, law school. At the bottom you'll see the graphs from the original OnlineAthens story that was ordered taken down by the judge. Yes, I'll run 'em, because that's what I do.

The judge, H. Patrick Haggard (pic above), still doesn't get it. According to the latest Athens Banner-Herald/OnlineAthens story:
The amended order he issued Wednesday restricts only the publication of information that could identify potential jurors, responses made by potential jurors during the selection process, and issues raised by the prosecution and defense which “may relate to juror responses.”
Sorry, that's still prior restraint. If potential jurors are saying it in a public courtroom, it's in the public domain and definitely in the public interest. Period.

The judge may have avoided the embarrassment of being told by another court to straighten up and fly constitutionally right. Maybe. It depends on whether the ABH is willing to spent the bucks challenging the existing, eased gag order. In fairness to the judge, his interest is less on the First Amendment and more on the Sixth Amendment and ensuring a fair trial for an admitted cop killer. That said, the law is fairly straightforward here, and he's on the wrong side. I get his concern, he's just overreached. And to be honest, Elbert County was a crappy choice for jurors in the first place. A year ago I wrote this and even recommended Hall County as a better choice, given the demographics, plus years ago an infamous local trial was moved there in a change of venue, that of the Five Points Rapist. Sigh, no one listens to me.

By the way, where are the other local or Atlanta media in this fight? Eh? Get in the ballgame, folks.

Section That Pissed Off Judge
The DA’s motion further states, “The court is aware of the massive amount of media exposure and the fixed opinions of potential jurors who have directly heard statements by (Hood) admitting to acts that infer (his) guilt, read newspaper articles that state (Hood) made admissions of killing a police officer or heard the same information by word of mouth in the community.

In the selection process that began June 1, 47 people were qualified out of a field of 126 as potentially suited to serve on the jury.
“Of the 47 jurors that were kept 77% stated that they were familiar with the facts of the case and of (Hood) and 15% gave the opinion that (Hood) was guilty when asked by (Hood),” Mauldin states in his motion. “However the actual percentage may be higher than the figure given as (Hood) did not ask all 47 jurors who were qualified if they thought he was guilty.”

Earlier posts by me on this here and here. Worth your time, if you haven't already read them. OK, maybe not. Humor me.

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