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Judge closes courtroom to reporters who name juvenile murder accomplice

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  1. Prior Restraint

    News Media Update         ILLINOIS         Prior Restraints         March 2, 2005    

Judge closes courtroom to reporters who name juvenile murder accomplice

  • A county judge angry that journalists reported the identity of a teenager charged as an accomplice to murder punished reporters by barring them from a court hearing in which the teen pleaded guilty.

March 2, 2005 — Three reporters were tossed from a juvenile court hearing in Rock Island County, Ill., Feb. 23 by a judge angry that the journalists named a juvenile murder defendant who was previously identified in adult court.

Judge John McClean asked reporters with The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus, sister publications of the Small Newspaper Group, and WQAD TV and KWQC TV, to leave a juvenile court hearing as punishment for reporting that Nathan Gaudet, 16, was charged with concealing a homicidal death in the murder and dismemberment of another teenager.

“The first time we were in court, Feb. 1, I directly said because this was a juvenile court proceeding, the name and image of the defendant were not to be used,” Judge McClean said at the Feb. 23 hearing, The Dispatch reported. “Much to my dismay, the name and photographs were used.”

Representatives of WHBF-TV, which agreed to the judge’s edict, were allowed to remain at the hearing.

Between Feb. 1 and Feb. 23, The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus learned Gaudet’s identity “from legitimate newsgathering,” Russell Scott, managing editor of The Dispatch said in an interview. Gaudet’s identity was confirmed when his name was brought up in District Court, where a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old were being charged as adults in the murder of Adrianne Reynolds.

“We feel we are on very firm legal footing to report his name and his identity,” Scott said. “We feel we have a legal right and a responsibility to report” Gaudet’s involvement.

The paper is considering whether to petition to be allowed in future juvenile court hearings. “We’re not going to let this sit. We really don’t want to be routinely blocked from covering juvenile court proceedings,” Scott said.

KM


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