Right to Know

The attorney representing accused child murderer asked city court Judge Diane Wray to close yesterday’s felony hearing to the public. It was an unusual move that I’d suspect more and more criminal defendants may seek out. Up to the judge’s discretion, the defendant “must demonstrate to the court a strong likelihood that evidence relevant and admissible would prejudice the defendant’s trial if it were disclosed to potential jurors”. 

I can’t imagine that any of the facts already known and released – how the boy, Abdifatah Mohamud, was seen running from the stepfather just hours before his killing; how the killer tied the boy up to a chair, gagged him with a cloth, duct taped his mouth, and beat him repeatedly with a blunt, wooden instrument until dead; and how the homicide was because Abdifatah was supposedly a little behind in his homework. All of those facts are relevant, admissible, and would prejudice a jury against the accused. 

Some judges have been permitting reporters to record the audio and/or video of court proceedings, and some also allow live Tweeting and other forms of electronic insta-reporting. Perhaps this was an effort by the defendant to prevent any of these from happening. 

This is a solid First Amendment issue – as is, quite frankly, the default prohibition against cameras in the courtroom – that should be resolved in favor of the public’s right to know. 

One comment

  • Since the felony hearing precedes an actual trial, the attorney’s actions are completely understandable.  If the case was presented to a Grand Jury, neither the public, nor the media, would have access.  If anything, banning the public from the felony hearing will strengthen the eventual verdict from a trial.

    Regarding the default ban on cameras in the courtroom, I agree with you in the case of actual trials.  At that point, the judge has discretion to shield the jurors from information outside of the courtroom that could be potentially prejudicial to a defendant.

Leave a Reply