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Media groups protest prior restraint in Quattrone case

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Media groups protest prior restraint in Quattrone case

  • A coalition of media companies have protested an order by a federal judge in New York that prevents news organizations from publishing the names of prospective or sitting jurors in the retrial of former investment banker Frank Quattrone.

April 14, 2004 — A coalition of media companies sent a letter of protest this morning to U.S. District Court Judge Richard Owen in New York City, who issued an order yesterday prohibiting anyone from publishing the names of jurors in the upcoming retrial of former investment banker Frank Quattrone.

“Although this is a newsworthy prosecution that has attracted the intense interest of the public, we respectfully submit that press coverage of this case does not itself create such a clear and present danger to the administration of justice as to justify extraordinary injunctive relief,” wrote attorney David Schulz, an attorney for The Associated Press who is representing the coalition.

“[T]he names of prospective jurors are routinely made public during voir dire (jury selection), and the press historically has refrained from publishing those names during the conduct of voir dire,” he added.

Schulz said the issue is not yet “a formal matter,” and that Owen has scheduled arguments concerning his order for later today.

The order against publication of the names of prospective or sitting jurors was made yesterday, the first day of jury selection. Quattrone is on trial for obstructing two federal investigations into securities fraud, and whether his former company, Credit Suisse First Boston, illegally awarded shares of initial public offerings. His first trial ended with a hung jury in October.

John W. Keker, Quattrone’s attorney, filed a motion last week asking that jury selection be conducted in secret. That request came on the heals of a mistrial in the corporate corruption case of two former Tyco International executives.

The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post published the name of “Juror No. 4,” Ruth Jordan, after she allegedly made an “OK” gesture to the defense in open court. Jordan has since denied making any such signal. One week after her name was published, Jordan said she received an anonymous phone call and insulting letter at home, prompting Judge Michael Obus of Supreme Court in Manhattan, N.Y., to declare a mistrial on April 2.

Owen yesterday rejected the motion to empanel an anonymous jury, and instead issued what appears to be a prior restraint upon the media.

“No member of the press or media organization is to divulge at any time until further order of this court the name of any prospective or selected juror,” Owen said in open court, according to a story in today’s Wall Street Journal .

Schulz said he hopes Owen will reconsider that order, and trust that the media will abide by an unwritten professional policy of not revealing the name of jurors until after a verdict is reached. Jurors’ names are public records available within the court. (Officials at the New York Post and Journal have said they published Jordan’s name only because she drew attention to herself when she made the hand gesture in open court.)

If Owen doesn’t reconsider, Schulz said he would advocate the holding of jurors’ names until after a verdict was reached, as was done in the recent trial of Martha Stewart.

“It’s certainly not necessary in most cases, but it’s less of a violation of the First Amendment,” Schulz said.

The media coalition consists of The New York Times , The Associated Press, Bloomberg, Dow Jones, Forbes, NBC, Reuters, the San Jose Mercury News , Newsday and the New York Post .

(U.S. v. Quattrone; Media Counsel: David Schulz, Levine, Sullivan, Koch & Schulz, New York City) JL

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© 2004 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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