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Gag orders skirt line of constitutional violations

One would think if a judge tells reporters they can observe a trial, but orders them not to report on it until a later date, he would have a solid reason why.

But the Ohio Supreme Court concluded recently that Henry County Judge Henry Muehlfeld basically blew the call when he issued a gag order in a criminal case late last year.

The high court ruled for The Toledo Blade in an action the newspaper had filed against Muehlfeld. …

The case is a good example of why gag orders should only be used sparingly, and only when all other options have been considered. …

Muehlfeld, in granting a defense request for a gag order, said reporters could attend the trial of … a mother charged with the involuntary manslaughter of her 13-month-old daughter, but could not report on the proceedings until the jury was chosen in the trial of the mother’s boyfriend … who was also charged in the death. …

(T)he Supreme Court ruled the judge had overstated the prejudicial effect of any pretrial publicity and gave priority to the defendant’s constitutional right to a fair trial over the constitutional rights of free speech and press. …

Clearly, Muehlfeld should have studied the alternatives more carefully before issuing such a restrictive order barring the media from covering the case like any other.

There’s no defense when a judge doesn’t follow the Constitution or know the law.

The (Findlay) Courier