Judge bars Texas newspaper from revealing rape victim's name

July 03, 1991|By Fort Worth Star-Telegram

FORT WORTH, Texas -- A judge barred the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and attorneys for the newspaper yesterday from revealing the name or other identifying details of a rape victim who is suing the publication for invasion of privacy.

Attorneys for the newspaper had argued that a prohibition on publishing the woman's name or other identifying details constituted prior restraint and violated constitutional guarantees of free speech and press.

The woman's name, which has not been published by the Star-Telegram, was included in the public record before and during the criminal trial of her assailant.

Representatives of the newspaper said that they intend to appeal state District Judge Jeff Walker's ruling.

"Our quarrel is over the larger constitutional issue," said Assistant Managing Editor Kenneth Bunting. "It is important to remember that although the rape occurred two years ago, we have never published the victim's name. And we certainly have no plans to do so now.

"But we feel duty-bound to appeal, in the public's interest, when a judge seeks to restrain us from using public information that has long been available for anyone to see."

The woman sued the Star-Telegram in July 1990, arguing that although her name was not used, the newspaper printed other details that identified her in the community. The woman also objected to the newspaper's account of her assault, contending in the suit that the "intimate details of her aggravated sexual assault were of no legitimate public concern and are highly offensive."

Mark Haney, a lawyer for the woman, said yesterday that the woman's "constitutional right to privacy outweighs constitutional protections of the press and speech."

The state's so-called Jane Doe statute permits victims of sexual assault to conceal their identity in public records and to testify under an alias. The law also prohibits "public servants," such as police and prosecutors, from revealing the identity of a victim using a pseudonym.

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