Friday, January 29, 2010

UPDATE: Toledo Blade Challenges Judge's Courtroom Closure

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The Block Communications-owned The Toledo Blade has filed a complaint for an original writ of prohibition with the Ohio Supreme Court urging the state high court to overturn as an unconstitutional prior restraint Henry County Judge Keith P. Muehlfeld's order prohibiting the news media from reporting on a manslaughter trial in an open courtroom until a jury has been impaneled in the trial of a co-defendant. [See "TUOL" post 1/21/10.]

The action, The State of Ohio ex rel. The Toledo Blade Co. v. The Court of County Pleas of Henry County, Ohio & The Hon. Keith P. Muehlfeld claims that Judge Muehfeld's gag order in  The State of Ohio v. David E. Knepley & Jayme Schwenkmeyer runs afoul of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Ohio Constitution.

In Craig v. Harney, 331 U.S. 367, 374 (1947), the Supreme Court noted that what transpires in open court is public property that judges can't suppress, edit or censor. In the seminal case of Nebraska Press Assn. v. Stuart, 427 U.S. 539 (1976), the high court ruled that what occurs in a public hearing is not subject to judicial prior restraint.

Preserving the presumption of innocence and protecting the fair trial right of the accused is paramount in our criminal justice system, but as Judge Muehlfeld is likely soon to learn, it must be done without infringing on the constitutional rights of the public and the press to see the justice system in action.

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