Monday, December 13, 2010

5th Circuit Weighs Closed Sentencing Hearing Challenge by Hearst Daily

Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for...Image via WikipediaThe U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in an appeal filed by Hearst Newspapers, LLC concerning a criminal proceeding,  U.S. v. Cardenas-Guillen (Case No. 10-40221),  is deciding whether authorities violated the First Amendment when they conducted a criminal sentencing hearing behind closed doors without giving notice to the public.

Hearst Newspapers, LLC-owned Houston Chronicle was shot down by the district court when it requested a hearing on the court's decision to close the sentencing hearing involving Oziel Cardenas-Guillen, who in February 2010, was sentenced to 25 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $50 million to the government based on terms of a plea agreement involving drug, conspiracy and threat charges, according to a report on the Web site of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (

The court cited security concerns in its decision to lock the public out of the hearing. The newspaper argued it was entitled to notice of the closure and an opportunity to be heard on whether the court was exceeding its discretion at the expense of the First Amendment.

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