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Judge bars still photographers from Westerfield penalty proceedings

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    NMU         CALIFORNIA         Broadcasting         Sep 5, 2002    

Judge bars still photographers from Westerfield penalty proceedings

  • A judge’s anger over a photograph of the parents of a murdered child prompted a complete restriction on photographers in the courtroom.

Photographers lost access to the penalty phase of the David Westerfield kidnap-murder trial on August 27 because of an alleged violation by The San Diego Union-Tribune photographer Dan Trevan. Westerfield was found guilty of the February kidnapping and murder of 7-year old Danielle van Dam.

Judge William Mudd of the San Diego Superior Court ruled that Trevan violated California Court Rule 980, which prohibits the use of images depicting spectators in court proceedings. Trevan was the only still photographer covering the proceedings.

“Judge Mudd did not specify the violation, but it appears he was referring to the photograph of Danielle van Dams’ parents reacting to the guilty verdicts. This photograph ran in the Union-Tribune and widely appeared on all media,” said Karin Winner, editor of the Union-Tribune.

California Court Rule 980 allows a judge to determine which media coverage will be permitted in court. Its primary purpose is to “ensure that the fairness and dignity of the proceedings are not adversely affected.”

Assessment of California Court Rule 980 was made at the “court’s discretion” said Guylyn Cummins, attorney for Trevan and the Union-Tribune. “Judge Mudd was so angry with Dan that he did not allow any still photographers in court.”

Court TV was the only media permitted to remain during the penalty proceedings.

The jury for Westerfield’s penalty’s proceedings went into deliberation yesterday, Sept. 4. The newspaper is not taking any further action against Judge Mudd’s ruling at this time, according to Cummins.

(State v. Westerfield; Media Counsel: Guylyn Cummins, Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich LLP, San Diego) LF

© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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