Sun, TV stations protest gag order in Harris case

November 19, 2008|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,

Attorneys for The Baltimore Sun, WBAL-TV and WJZ-TV filed their opposition yesterday to a gag order that would limit public comment on the cases against two men accused of killing former City Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr.

A hearing on the gag order could occur as early as 11 a.m. today in Baltimore District Court, but is likely to be postponed.

Attorneys for Gary Collins and Charles Y. McGaney, who are accused of fatally shooting Harris outside a Northeast Baltimore jazz club during a robbery, requested the order, saying it was necessary to ensure a fair and impartial jury.

Collins, 20, and McGaney, 19, have been linked to the crime through DNA and witnesses, according to court records.

In a filing yesterday, the media companies' attorneys, Nathan Siegel and Adam J. Rappaport, wrote that the gag order request was vague, broad and suggested that officials and attorneys could not even repeat information already in the public record.

Maryland's second-highest court has made it "clear that a party seeking a gag order bears a very heavy burden to justify its imposition," the attorneys wrote. "Gag orders in Maryland are treated as prior restraints on speech, the most serious potential infringement of First Amendment rights."

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