Ohio School Shooting

Judge limits media access to T.J. Lane trial

Common Pleas Judge David Fuhry issued a 15-page order detailing the rules media must follow during the T.J. Lane murder case.

Lane is accused of opening fire in his Chardon High cafeteria, killing three students and wounding three others. The trial is set to begin Jan. 14, and could last at least six weeks.

Fuhry’s order details the restrictions placed on media access to the T.J. Lane trial because of the high profile nature of the case and the age of the victims and witnesses.

The restrictions include the following:

– Reporters can enter the courtroom only 15 minutes before proceedings begin.

– Reporters can only conduct interviews outside of the courthouse.

– Reporters cannot photograph or record any conferences between the judge and lawyers in the courtroom to prevent someone from reading their lips.

– Reporters cannot use pictures of witnesses who don’t want their pictures taken.

– The media cannot bring cellphones or laptop computers into the courthouse.

– Photographers must use a silent shutter to avoid disrupting the proceedings.

– Reporters and photographers also will be given only half of the available seating in the relatively small courtroom. Those not inside can go to a media room, which will have a closed-circuit feed.

Judge Fuhry’s restrictions balance the public’s right to have access to the trial with Lane’s right to a fair trial.

“These restrictions actually are pretty reasonable,” according to attorney Kelly Sheahen Gerner, who recently handled the intense media pressure of a high profile murder case as part of the Lois Goodman defense team.

“The judge is walking the fine line between being sensitive to the needs to the community and their right to know what’s going on, while also being respectful of the privacy of not only the victims and their families, but also the young defendant,” Gerner stated. “All courtroom proceedings are open to the public and nothing can happen behind locked doors, of course, but there’s no absolute ‘right’ to have cameras and reporters in the courtroom. There’s a potential for huge disruption if the courtroom is full of reporters and cameras as well.

“Also, with respect to the witnesses, many of them will be young kids and/or minors, and there’s no reason why reporters should harass young people who might not have the ability to deal with that kind of media attention well.”

Other attorneys say Judge Fuhry needs to be careful about how broad he makes his restrictions.

“Clearly, the judge is trying to keep order and make sure the defendant has a fair trial,” said attorney Kevin Shook who represented CNN in obtaining access to Lane’s judicial proceedings. “But when you start talking about what reporters can do outside the courtroom, that becomes a little too broad.”

Ryan Kerns, Esq., Wild About Trial

Copyright 2012 Wild About Trial. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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