Moussaoui judge denies immediate media access to trial records

[JURIST] US District Judge Leonie Brinkema [official profile] late Friday refused a media motion for immediate access to admitted documentary evidence and bench transcripts in the sentencing trial of accused September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, ruling that the court did not have the resources to provide such access and that it would undermine the integrity of the proceeding by increasing the chances of jury taint. The Associated Press, USA Today, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Hearst Corporation, NBC, CNN and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press had disputed [memorandum in support, PDF] February court orders by Brinkema where she indicated that documentary evidence [order, PDF] and transcripts of bench conferences between herself and the lawyers in the trial would only be made available at the end of the trial.

In any event, Brinkema noted that the trial was already

one of the most visible federal criminal cases in history. It was one of the first, if not the first, federal criminal case to provide electronic access to the pleadings. As such, details about this case have been in the public forum to an unprecedented extent. Moreover, the trial is available to more potential viewers in multiple locations [by closed circuit TV hookup] than any other federal criminal trial has ever been.... The Court recognizes that there is great public interest in this case, however, the media and the public must respect the unique challenges such a case places on the personnel who have to manage and conduct the trial.
Read the full text of Judge Brinkema's order [PDF]. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia already provides an extensive online collection of materials on the Moussaoui case.

 

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