Judge bars photos outside of courthouse after plea bargain rescinded
MARYLAND–After the defendant in a Potomac murder case backed out of a plea agreement saying he was upset at being photographed, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge in mid-June banned the press from photographing prisoners anywhere on the grounds of a Rockville courthouse, but later told media organizations that the order would not be enforced as broadly as it was written.
Judge Paul Weinstein prohibited the taking of pictures, videotaping or live television coverage of “any in-custody defendant while entering or leaving any area of or adjacent to, the Montgomery Judicial Center, and all parking areas.”
The order also requires the county sheriff to confiscate any photography equipment used and to report the name and address of the violator to the court. The order expanded on an order issued a day earlier by Circuit Court Judge Michael Pincus which applied only to the defendant in the case, Bruman Stalin Alvarez.
Lawyers representing The Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Times and the Montgomery Journal met with the judge to voice concern about the breadth of the order.
Mary Jane Craig, an attorney representing the Sun, said that in the meeting, Weinstein told the newspapers that he will not withdraw the order but that “he didn’t intend it to be applied as broadly as it was written,” she said.
Alice Neff Lucan, representing the Journal, explained that the secured “sallyport” area — where defendants in custody wait before moving into the courtroom — will be closed to the press, but that the order will not extend to public areas around the courthouse, such as the sidewalks. “If we can see it [from the sidewalk], we can shoot it,” she said. The newspapers will not pursue any further action with the court, she said.
Alvarez, accused of murdering five people last July, initially agreed to plea guilty and avoid the death sentence but changed his mind, claiming he was upset at the heavy press coverage. According to the Washington Post, he feared that his grandmother in Ecuador would see photos of him in handcuffs on television and in newspapers. (In re: Prohibition of photographs of in-custody defendants in the Montgomery Co., Md. Judicial Center)