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Gag order upheld in drug case against Dallas football star

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Gag order upheld in drug case against Dallas football star05/20/96 TEXAS--Efforts to overturn a gag order in the state drug…

Gag order upheld in drug case against Dallas football star

05/20/96

TEXAS–Efforts to overturn a gag order in the state drug possession case against Dallas Cowboys football wide receiver Michael Irvin were foiled in early May, despite the fact that the original order was connected to a now-completed grand jury proceeding.

The gag order issued in May only slightly modified the original March gag order placed by a Dallas criminal district court judge on all trial participants, present and potential witnesses, attorney employees and law enforcement personnel. Both orders apply to all the same parties, and both prohibit out-of-court statements which one could “reasonably expect to influence” the grand jury or the trial jury.

The Dallas Morning News, Dallas television station WFAA, the For Worth Star-Telegram, the New York Times Co. and Sports Illustrated magazine all presented arguments in early May opposing the March gag order held over from the original grand jury proceeding.

The May order permits those subject to the order to make out-of- court statements, without commentary, regarding the proceedings or the results of hearings, or “other statements which would not violate this order.” The order permits the media to report on the trial and information “not otherwise prohibited by law,” and to have access to public documents.

The new gag order notes that there was substantial publicity surrounding the case, and that the court could find no other less restrictive means to safeguard fair trial rights. The trial court did not explicitly explain any unusual or specific threatens to those rights.

Irvin and three other defendants are charged with felony possession of four or more grams of cocaine and a misdemeanor marijuana charge in early April. The felony charges carry two potential 20 year prison terms and a $10,000 fine. (The State of Texas v. Michael Jerome Irvin; Media Counsel: Paul Watler, Dallas)