Thursday, June 18, 2015

Paper Will Challenge Gag Order

Judge H. Patrick Haggard
The Athens Banner-Herald will challenge a local judge's gag order involving jury selection of a cop-killer trial. The order is clearly unconstitutional, not that local judges know all that much about First Amendment law. In fairness, he's just trying to wrangle a fair trial for an admitted cop killer, but this is exactly how not to do it. He ordered the paper to remove from online a story that gave details on the very public process, based on a very public record.

And if you want to know the part of the original online story that pissed off the judge, yes I'll give that to you. I posted it yesterday on my blog, but in case you missed it, here's a cached version of the story (because this is what I do) and below are the grafs I suspect got the judge's attention. Read them yourself.
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.”
And I was happy to see my old friend Chuck Tobin quoted in the most recent story. He's called a "noted First Amendment attorney" which, while true, will only make him more difficult to be around. As Chuck said:
“The judge has done two things, said Tobin, a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Holland & Knight and chairman of the firm’s National Media Practice Team. “First, he’s sealed off all public information about how jurors are selected, and second, it is a direct prior restraint on the press. It is strictly unconstitutional for a judge to tell reporters what they can and cannot print.”
Go, man, go.

I'll post updates if anything develops today. Also, of course, follow me on Twitter.

Update (1:50 p.m.)

Oh, and and about a year ago I wrote this about the choice of Elbert County as an alternative to Athens-Clarke. The ABH also questioned Elbert County as an alternative at the time.

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