Associated Press Questions Legality of Expanded Gag Order in Idaho Murder Case

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Bryan Kohberger’s case has become more controversial after an Idaho judge extended the gag order. This extends not only to the lawyers involved in the case but also to the attorneys representing the victims’ families and witnesses. Because of its obvious free speech implications, some are questioning whether the order is legal.

It is established law that criminal defendants have the right to a fair trial. This includes the right to a fair trial and to a neutral jury. Although judges often issue partial gag orders to protect accused rights, they rarely order gag orders that prohibit victims from speaking to the media. This is exactly what happened in Idaho.

Business Insider Reports:

Judge Megan Marshall has amended her gag order to prohibit “any attorney representing victim, witness, or victim’s families” from commenting on the case beyond quoting and referring to public records. The order was previously limited to Kohberger’s defense lawyer and prosecutors. The victims’ characters are not allowed to be discussed publicly by the attorneys.

Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment doesn’t allow for speech restrictions indefinitely to ensure fair trials. The Court has held that gag orders should be limited to protect a compelling public interest. It is important to balance the interest of ensuring fair trials with the rights of the victim and the defendant.

After an attorney representing Kohberger at the Pennsylvania extradition hearing spoke to reporters about possible defenses, the order was issued. The man appeared to be speaking for the Kohberger family. After weeks of victim statements and attempts to convict Kohberger in press interviews, it was smart to present a spokesperson. However, the order prohibits any family member from speaking. It is possible that this order was issued right after Kohberger’s representatives began to make a case for his innocence.

It appears that way. If we are fair and do not pre-judge Kohberger prior to the trial, then anyone concerned about the rights of the accused should agree that the accused has the right to defend himself publicly with the same passion as the victims’ families. Was this an order to silence Kohberger? That’s very troubling. After weeks of interviews by victims’ families on all major networks, Judge Marshall didn’t issue the order. However, he extended the ruling after Kohberger’s public defense.

This bothers me. While gag orders don’t violate free speech, the expansion of this one seems to be illegal and challenging. 22 news organizations have already formed a coalition in order to challenge the order. Josh Hoffner (national news director at the Associated Press) stated that the order was too broad and unnecessarily broad. “This order is unnecessarily sweeping, broad, and severely impedes public understanding of a significant crime investigation that profoundly impacted community.” This week, media outlets will file a complaint against the order.

Kohberger is charged with stabbing four University of Idaho, students. His DNA was discovered on the button snapping of a knife sheath. Police also claim that his phone activity put him at the crime scene along with videos of his car the night of the murders. Kohberger will be appearing in court on June 26 for a preliminary hearing.