Saturday, January 11, 2003

Court keeps reporters from jury selection

The Associated Press

SHEPHERDSVILLE, Ky. - A Kentucky Court of Appeals panel Friday declined to overrule a judge who banned reporters from jury selection in a murder trial.

The Courier-Journal of Louisville sought an emergency order to allow coverage of jury selection in the trial of David "Bucky" Brooks, who is charged with beating and strangling 17-year-old Jessica Dishon in 1999.

Bullitt County Circuit Judge Thomas Waller ruled Thursday that reporters can request transcripts of the selection process at a later date, after a jury is seated. He said media attention may bias potential jurors. The newspaper challenged Judge Waller's ruling as jury selection began.

"News is news when it happens," said Jon Fleischaker, an attorney for the newspaper. "To delay that is to deny coverage. We are not in the business of covering history."

Chief Judge Tom Emberton of Edmonton, writing for the appeals court panel, said Judge Waller had acted properly in the case. Judges David Buckingham of Murray and Joseph Huddleston of Bowling Green joined in the opinion.

Chief Judge Emberton said Judge Waller's ban on media access applied only when prospective jurors were asked about their knowledge of the case and whether they could consider the full range of penalties, including the death penalty.

"The denial of immediate press access in this case is limited, and the trial court has clearly demonstrated its intention to make transcripts available to the media reserving only the names of the individual jurors," Chief Judge Emberton wrote.

Kenyon Meyer, another attorney representing the newspaper, said the ruling was "contrary to U.S. Supreme Court precedent." He said officials of the newspaper were deciding their next step.

One option was to appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court, but jury selection could be completed before a ruling, Mr. Meyer said.

The newspaper has another motion pending before the appeals court seeking to overturn Judge Waller's decision. It, too, could be decided well after jury selection is completed. But Mr. Meyer said it would carry weight as a precedent.

Judge Waller on Thursday ordered jury selection to resume. Opening statements are not expected until late next week.

Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Mann and attorneys for the defendant asked that jury selection be closed.

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