Judge gags lawyers for remarks supporting televising of murder trial
TEXAS–In an attempt to prevent what he thought would be a “media circus,” Beaumont District Court Judge Larry Gist in late August issued an order preventing public discussion of a high-profile murder trial by anyone involved in the trial. As of mid-September, he had not ruled on whether he will allow cameras in the courtroom, but has asked the parties for their views.
The gag order prevents both sides from publicly discussing the pending trial of Jimmy Mankins, Jr., who is accused of murdering five people he kidnapped from a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Kilgore nearly twelve years ago. According to the order, neither counsel, their investigators nor witnesses should make public the trial strategy.
Gist’s order was adopted from Judge Donald Ross, who presided over the case before it was moved to Beaumont, Texas from Kilgore, Texas, because of the media attention it received there.
Quotations by the prosecution and defense counsels agreeing to the televising of the Mankins trial in an article in The Dallas Morning News were viewed by the court as a violation of the State Bar Act relating to professional conduct and trial publicity. The court regarded the statements as unauthorized extra-judicial statements. An added provision to the order stated that both sides were instructed to “legally justify” the comments that were made.
Defense lawyer Daryll Bennett filed a motion to have the order overturned, but the court upheld the order.
Mankins, 42, who is the son of a former state legislator, was indicted by a grand jury in April.
Judge Gist has asked for the lawyers’ views but will have the final say on whether cameras will be allowed in the courtroom. (Mankins v. Texas; defense attorney: Daryll Bennett)