Lawyers in Eaststate slaying want prior restraint on News-Sentinel online forums

From the News-Sentinel‘s Jamie Satterfield:

Earlier today, Judge Richard Baumgartner heard arguments related to defense attorneys’ complaints about comments on media Web sites’ stories on the case, addressing question such as: Does the First Amendment apply to anonymous posters on commercial media Web sites? Do the journalistic principles employed by professional journalists apply to bloggers? Does a judge have the right to dictate a news organization’s Web policies?

The suspects are black; the victims are white.

Defense attorneys contend the media has failed to properly police comments posted on stories about the case on their Web sites, allowing the publication via the Internet of hate-filled, racially-charged commentary that could be poisoning the minds of potential jurors.

They argue it threatens their clients’ Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial and are asking the judge to require the media to either stop the posts or strip posters of anonymity.

“That is classic (unconstitutional) prior restraint,” the News Sentinel‘s attorney, Richard L. Hollow argued this morning.

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