Judge Arthur D. Spatt of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York has denied a motion by attorneys for indicted Nassau County lawmaker Roger Corbin to enjoin Newsday and cable channel News 12 from showing photos of a manacled Corbin taken during his arrest on May 6 (See my "TUOL" post on 5/21/09).
Although the 84-year-old jurist found the use of the images of the handcuffed solon excessive, Judge Spatt conceded that he was powerless to "censor the press in this matter and cannot instruct the press as to what images are newsworthy." The court found that Corbin's counsel failed to demonstrate how the use of the images would impair the legislator's right to a fair trial. The attorney for the media outlets argued that Judge Spatt had options available to him to preserve Corbin's presumption of innocence, including changing the location of the trial and questioning prospective jurors to flush out potential prejudice, without compromising the news media's First Amendment right to run the story.
Previously, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has ruled that broadcasting a videotape of a perp walk did not violate the defendant's rights under the Fourth Amendment (Caldarola v. County of Westchester, 343 F.3d 319 (2003)).
Besides upholding the longstanding prohibition against prior restraint of the press articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark 1976 decision, Nebraska Press Assn. v. Stuart, Judge Spatt's ruling is welcome news for manufacturers of trenchcoats, the vestment of choice of mob figures for covering their heads as they trudge into federal court to answer racketeering charges.