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30 news groups ask Idaho Supreme Court to quash gag order

30 news groups ask Idaho Supreme Court to quash gag order

BOISE, Idaho (AP) – Thirty news organizations have asked the Idaho Supreme Court to overturn a restraining order in a case against a man accused of stabbing and killing four University of Idaho students.

EW Scripps, the parent company of Idaho News 6 and KIVI-TV, is among the thirty news organizations involved.

The challenge, filed Monday evening, came just days after an attorney representing the family of one of the victims opposed the gag order in state court, saying it was overly broad and placed an unfair burden on families. puts a burden

Brian Kohberger, 28, has been charged with first-degree murder and four counts of burglary in connection with the stabbing deaths in Moscow, Idaho. Prosecutors have not yet revealed whether they intend to seek the death penalty.

The bodies of Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Zana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin were found on November 13, 2022, in a rental home across the street from the University of Idaho campus. The murders shocked the rural Idaho community and neighboring Pullman, Washington, where Kohberger was a graduate student studying criminology at Washington State University.

The case received widespread publicity, and in January Latah County Magistrate Judge Megan Marshall issued a sweeping gag order barring attorneys, law enforcement agencies and others involved with the case from talking or writing about it.

A coalition of news organizations, which includes The Associated Press, argues that the gag order violates the right to free speech by preventing this from happening in the first place.

โ€œJustice cannot survive behind walls of silence. For this reason, ‘a responsible press has always been treated as the handmaiden of effective judicial administration, especially in the criminal area,’ said Wendy Olson, a lawyer for the coalition, citing landmark court decisions regarding prior restrictions on free speech. Filed in court citing

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In the gag order, Marshall stated that the speech restriction was needed to protect Kohberger’s right to a fair trial.

โ€œMore speech does not mean less fair hearing; The speech at issue must be such as could prejudice a jury. And even when publicity can cause prejudice, the answer is not always to suppress speech,” Olson wrote. “Other measures such as the passage of time, change of venue, voir dire, jury instructions, and jury Sequestration may clear the jury of any taint without infringing on the right of speech.”

Olsson said that despite the widespread public interest in the case, there has been no notable leak of information that would affect Kohberger’s right to a fair trial.

News organizations in the coalition would have published additional information about the killings if the gag order had not been in place, he wrote. For example, police in Pennsylvania told a reporter they could not say whether they were reviewing unsolved cases that may be linked to Kohburger because of the gag order, and the mayor of Moscow told another reporter Said he couldn’t talk about overall community treatment because of the gag.

Many journalists’ public records requests have been rejected or left incomplete because agencies in Idaho and Washington fear they will violate the order.

โ€œThe petitioners do not make news; They report the news. They can’t report what they can’t gather,” Olson wrote.

Shannon Gray, the attorney representing Kaylee Goncalves’ family, filed a separate court action Friday, asking a Latah County magistrate judge to hold a hearing on the gag order or clarify it. The “current order” is broad and vague, wrote Gray.

The gag order bars “all comments or opinions,” even if they might prejudice jurors, and it remains in effect even if jurors are instructed to avoid news coverage of the case, Gray said, adding the order Said unconstitutional.

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Gray said the order also bars the families of the victims from speaking to the media to have attorneys on their behalf.

“It would place an undue burden on the families of the victims,” โ€‹โ€‹Gray wrote, “if they are unable to find a spokesperson to convey their views and opinions to news organizations or others.”

It is not yet clear what will be the next step in the case. Typically the Idaho Supreme Court will ask both parties to respond to requests such as the News Coalition before issuing a ruling, although sometimes it will rule immediately based on the initial request.

Similarly, a magistrate judge in Latah County may hear an appeal by Goncalves’ attorney or decide whether to uphold or modify an existing gag order.

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