Media objects to gag order in Bryant case
Media attorneys say the gag order imposed this week in the Kobe Bryant rape case prohibits anyone connected with the case from even telling reporters if a hearing is done for the day.That, media attorney Steven Zansberg wrote Friday in a formal objection, makes District Judge Terry Ruckriegle’s gag order “unconstitutionally overbroad.””The court’s order precludes Mr. Haddon or Mr. Hurlbert, upon leaving the courthouse, to respond to the question from a reporter, ‘Are today’s proceedings concluded or are you returning later for further proceedings?'” Zansberg wrote, referring to District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and one of Bryant’s lawyers, Hal Haddon.Ruckriegle’s order bans anyone connected with the case, or almost anyone who could be, from making public statements about it. His order came after a request from Bryant’s lawyers for a gag order, and after the alleged victim’s attorneys, John Clune and Lin Wood, did a round of television interviews earlier this week.”There is no reason to believe that the court’s order will reduce the quantity of information reported in the press,” wrote Zansberg. “Instead, the gag order will result in the news media being forced to rely on off-the-record comments, second-hand sources and rank speculation, instead of being able to obtain information from individuals who may have direct knowledge of a particular circumstance.”Zansberg asked Ruckriegle to either rescind his gag order or narrow its focus. Besides witnesses, attorneys and law enforcement, the order prohibits public comment from anyone who shares office space with any of the attorneys involved in the case. That detail takes dead aim at local defense attorney and former federal and state prosecutor David Lugert, who keeps a law office in Eagle in the same suite of offices as Clune. Lugert is a legal analyst for CBS News, KCNC-TV and Viacom.”Mr. Lugert is now precluded from not only exercising his free speech rights, but from engaging in his livelihood,” wrote Zansberg.In his own objection, Lugert said he and Clune do not share clients, cases or information, and that including him in the gag order hurts his work as a legal analyst and impedes his First Amendment rights.In making the defense’s request for the order, Haddon accused Clune and Wood of launching a media campaign – through Eagle County media outlets – designed to influence the jury pool.Clune and Wood filed their objection to Haddon’s motion and Ruckriegle’s ensuing gag order, but their response was not available Friday night at press time. They were banned from commenting directly because of Ruckriegle’s gag order.”The accuser’s attorneys have thrown fair-trial concerns to the wind and opened a media campaign designed to poison the jury pool and prejudice Mr. Bryant,” wrote Haddon in the gag order request. “Mr. Clune’s practice of targeting the Vail Daily for many of his most vitriolic attacks against the court and defense is intended to poison the jury pool. “Mr. Clune is well aware that the Vail Daily is read by 90 percent of the community. He is also well aware that jury summons for this case have already been issued,” Haddon wrote. “For weeks now, and in the month preceding commencement of the trial, Mr. Clune has used the local media – namely, the Vail Daily – to launch repeated, virulent attacks on the court and the defense.”Clune sharply criticized the court late last month when the alleged victim’s last name was accidentally posted on a court Web site in an area set up to provide information to the press and the public. Haddon’s motion accused Clune of violating the rules of conduct for the legal profession by making public statements designed to influence the case. “Like all lawyers who appear before a court in a proceeding, Mr. Clune is deemed to be an officer of the court, and, like the court itself, an instrument of justice,” wrote Haddon. “His wanton attacks on the court and defense counsel surely have had their intended effect: convincing potential jurors that, because the court is unwilling or unable to protect the accuser and because defense counsel are ‘obscene’ and ‘disgusting,’ the impaneled jurors themselves are morally duty-bound to protect her.”Randy Wyrick is a writer based in Vail, Colorado, and works for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at : firstname.lastname@example.org.