Judge asks newspaper reporter not to print remark about suspect
VIRGINIA–In mid-February, a Newport News judge scheduled to preside over a murder trial said during a preliminary hearing that he assumed the defendant was guilty, then asked a reporter not to print the comment.
The Daily Press published the comment in a front-page article on February 19, the day after the hearing. The Associated Press reported that editor Will Corbin said it took “about a nanosecond” to decide to print the judge’s remark.
“I would assume that he’s going to get convicted,” Circuit Court Judge Robert Frank said in a mid-February hearing related to evidence in the upcoming trial of David Lee Moore. Several minutes later, he asked a newspaper reporter from the Daily Press of Newport News in the room not to print what he had said.
Frank stated, “I would ask that you not put in about our conversation about the likelihood of a conviction because I think then that creates a lot of problems with getting a jury if they read that article.” The hearing was to determine whether WVEC-TV of Norfolk would be forced to turn over its videotape of a Sept. 30 news conference in which Moore admitted to killing Harold Gilbert and said he didn’t feel bad about it.
No contempt charges have been levied against the newspaper as of early March.
Frank’s comment came during an exchange with Gwynn as the prosecutor sought a subpoena for the videotape. Gwynn argued that although his office had a transcript of the statement Moore gave police and an audiotape of the news conference, the videotape showed Moore’s remorseless demeanor as nothing else could.
“This video is unique,” Gwynn said. “Nothing that we have in this case, no other piece of evidence, can show those things to these twelve people that will be sitting in this box.”
WVEC attorney Rebecca Deloria Kubin said Gwynn already has more than enough evidence against Moore without the tape.
Frank did not rule on the subpoena during the mid-February hearing. He told police to prepare a transcript of what can be made out on the audiotape and said he would listen to it and read the transcript before reaching a decision. (Virginia v. Moore)