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Crime

What the Dallas Morning News Should Do About That Gag Order in Anderson County

The Dallas Morning News has a very solid editorial today, about the ridiculous gag order from the judge in the case of a man accused of murdering six people at a campsite near Palestine. The paper explains that State District Judge Deborah Oakes Evans issued an egregious order demanding journalists not photograph the defendant in the case, William Hudson, nor report anything discussed at the public hearings. The editorial calls the order "wrongheaded" and "unconstitutional," which is probably going easy on the judge. It also lists several big court decisions that make it clear that any kind of prior restraint should be the absolute last measure, taken only when "the evil that would result from the reportage is both great and certain and cannot be mitigated by less intrusive measures." There is no indication in this case that reporting what is transpiring in a public court would cause any evil at all. Remember how crazy people -- especially media people -- went when that University of Missouri professor tried to keep journalists from reporting in a public area? This gag order is exponentially worse. And it's from the government. In Texas! While that editorial is a good (late) start, here's what the DMN should do:
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The Dallas Morning News has a very solid editorial today, about the ridiculous gag order from the judge in the case of a man accused of murdering six people at a campsite near Palestine. The paper explains that State District Judge Deborah Oakes Evans issued an egregious order demanding journalists not photograph the defendant in the case, William Hudson, nor report anything discussed at the public hearings. The editorial calls the order “wrongheaded” and “unconstitutional,” which is probably going easy on the judge. It also lists several big court decisions that make it clear that any kind of prior restraint should be the absolute last measure, taken only when “the evil that would result from the reportage is both great and certain and cannot be mitigated by less intrusive measures.”

There is no indication in this case that reporting what is transpiring in a public court would cause any evil at all.

Remember how crazy people — especially media people — went when that University of Missouri professor tried to keep journalists from reporting in a public area? This gag order is exponentially worse. And it’s from the government. In Texas!

While that editorial is a good (late) start, here’s what the DMN should do: Violate the gag order. Violate it as soon as possible. Publish a photo of a suspect walking into the court. Dare the judge to hold you in contempt for taking a photo in a public place. Report what’s being said in court. Dare the judge to hold you in contempt for reporting to the public what is happening in a public trial. Dare her to fill the local jail with journalists who want the truth. Don’t let the weight of this fall on the much smaller, much more vulnerable Palestine Herald-Press. The constitution guarantees both the rights of the press and the right to a public trial. The judge, who should step aside from this case immediately, likely knows she can’t close the courtroom for the entire trial.

The public has a right to know what’s happening inside that court. As the paper’s editorial quotes, “Justice cannot be administered in private.” And the newspaper has a responsibility — to its readers, to the public at-large, and to other members of the media — to make sure that doesn’t happen.

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