One of the primary concerns of a defendant in the middle of a high-profile criminal case is getting a fair trial. Because these cases are widely covered by the media, it can be difficult to find jurors who are impartial and who can base their decisions about the case only on what is presented in court. For this reason, some judges might issue orders that prevent cases being covered fully by the media.
Recently, The Virginian-Pilot headed to court to seek permission to cover the case of teenage defendants who now face murder charges. The judge is allowing the newspaper to cover the hearings, but with strict stipulations. The newspaper’s lawyer is challenging the ruling because of those restrictions.
A major issue is that one of the defendants doesn’t turn 18 until March. This means that the person is still considered a juvenile. However, there is a possibility that the juvenile could be tried in the adult court.
Defense attorneys and prosecutors agree that there shouldn’t be a free-for-all method to the coverage. The prosecutor doesn’t want the defendants and witnesses to be named. Defense attorneys cited the need to find an impartial jury and the fact that the teens are presumed innocent until proven guilty as the reasons they object to the coverage.
Despite the objections from the attorneys, the judge made his ruling that allows the newspaper to cover the case revolving around the two people who died and the four who were injured.
The need to balance freedom of the press with the rights of the defendants can be complex. It is imperative that you understand your rights as a defendant, as well as other factors that affect your case if you are facing criminal charges.
Source: The Virginian-Pilot, “Judge rules Virginian-Pilot can cover hearings involving 2 teenagers charged with murder,” Scott Daugherty, Jan. 25, 2017