Texas

In re Clendennen (Waco gag order)

July 24, 2015

Prosecutors sought a broad gag order against Matthew Clendennen, one of more than 100 motorcycle riders arrested after a May shootout outside a restaurant in Waco, Texas, in which 9 people were killed and 18 injured. The court granted an order preventing all attorneys, their staff, law enforcement, and witnesses who have given statements to law enforcement from talking to the media about Clendennen's case. Clendennen appealed, and an amicus coalition led by the Reporters Committee argued that the gag order violated both the First Amendment and the Texas constitution because it was overbroad and vague. The trial court had made no findings that the news coverage of the incident was inflammatory or prejudicial, focusing instead on the quantity of news coverage.

XI. Cameras and other technology in the courtroom

Overview

Texas

Broadcast media have a right of access to criminal proceedings. See State v. Dunn, 28 Media L. Rep. 1861 (Tex. Dist. Ct. 2000).  The presence of cameras and other recording equipment at a criminal trial do not violate a defendant’s Due Process rights. See Wright v. State, 41 Med. L. Rep. 1533 (Tex. App. 2012). 

F. Interviewing petit jurors and grand jurors

Overview

Texas

Courts may issue gag orders to jurors when interviews with jurors would interfere with the selection of an impartial jury and the gag order is the least restrictive means of securing this. See In re Hearst Newspapers, 241 S.W.3d 190 (Tex. Ct. App. 2007).

F. Trial records

Overview

Texas

The Supreme Court held that a newspaper, which is a defendant in a civil suit for invasion of privacy for publishing the name of a rape victim, cannot be enjoined from publishing the name once it has become part of the trial court’s public record. Fort Worth Star-Telegram v. Walker, 834 S.W.2d 54 (Texas 1992). 

Nonparties’ motion to redact portions of a trial transcript was successful with relation to language that referred to their financial affairs; however, the nonparties’ privacy interests in references to themselves and identifying information were not sufficient to overcome the common law and First Amendment presumptions of access. See Ins. Distribs. Int’l (Berm.) Ltd. v. Edgewater Consulting Group Ltd., 2010 WL 3064003 (W.D. Tex. 2010).

C. Pretrial motions and records

Overview

Texas

Texas recognizes a First Amendment right to access petitions and other case-initiating records. See Courthouse News Service v. Jackson, 38 Media L. Rep. 1890 (S.D. Tex. 2010). 

J. Other criminal court records issues

Overview

Texas

Texas has adopted the view from Washington Post v. Robinson, 935 F.2d 282 (D.C. Cir. 1991), that the First Amendment right of access extends to plea agreements unless there is a compelling and narrowly tailored interest for sealing. See U.S. v. Thompson, 1992 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9368 (N.D. Tex. 1992). 

G. Trial records

Overview

Texas

Texas recognizes a right of access to evidence presented at trial (including source data contained in reports), as well as transcripts of the proceedings. See U.S. v. Valencia, 2006 WL 3707867 (S.D. Tex. 2006); United States v. Smalley, 9 Media L. Rep. 1255 (N.D. Tex. 1983).

F. Pretrial motions and records

Overview

Texas

Though the First Amendment right of access extends to preliminary motions, it must be balanced against the state’s interest in continuing investigation and ensuring witness cooperation. See United States v. Brown, 447 F. Supp. 2d 666 (W.D. Tex. 2006).

B. Pretrial proceedings

Overview

Texas

The First Amendment right of access extends to plea hearings, though this presumption may be overcome when the interest in preserving investigation. See United States v. Ketner, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 108438 (W.D. Tex. 2008). 

As recording police officers draws more attention, Dallas police policy tries to 'water down' the right

Jacob Donnelly | Newsgathering | News | June 3, 2015
News
June 3, 2015

When the Dallas Police Department released its policy in May on the right of the press and public to records its officers, the media were left scrambling to figure out what had changed between when the policy was drafted and circulated and when it was released officially.