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Judge bars press from publishing murder suspects' photos — in color

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    NMU         CALIFORNIA         Prior Restraints         Dec 19, 2001    

Judge bars press from publishing murder suspects’ photos — in color

  • A county judge in California reasoned that the photographs of suspects in orange jumpsuits might make potential jurors believe they were guilty even before a trial begins.

A county judge in California recently ordered area newspapers to publish only black-and-white photos of a couple charged with murder, ruling that color photos would be too prejudicial.

Lisa Ann Platz and James Csucsai face murder charges that include kidnapping and use of a knife. Platz’s 9-year-old daughter was found dead in a tent with her throat slashed on Sept. 21.

Judge Jerald Lasarow of El Dorado County on Dec. 13 agreed with the couple’s attorney that color photos would be prejudicial because showing the defendants in orange jail jumpsuits might taint the jury pool. Lasarow said the photos could make the jurors subconsciously believe the couple was guilty before the trial began.

The newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, argued that they had legally obtained the photos and had already published color photos. But the judge ordered the newspapers to stop using color photos and any that show jail insignia.

The couple’s attorney offered as an alternative that his clients be permitted to wear street clothes in court, thereby eliminating any prejudicial implications from the orange jumpsuits. The judge denied the request.

(State v. Platz; Media Counsel, James Houpt, Sacramento, Calif.) AG

© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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