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Media organizations challenge gag order in Zimmerman case

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More than a dozen news media organizations are opposing a proposed gag order in the George Zimmerman prosecution that would…

More than a dozen news media organizations are opposing a proposed gag order in the George Zimmerman prosecution that would silence all attorneys involved.

Before a hearing last Friday, prosecutors asked Florida Judge Debra S. Nelson to impose a gag order that would prevent attorneys from publicly commenting on the case. Nelson said she would address the request during a hearing this Friday. The media organizations, which include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA TODAY, filed a motion to intervene on Tuesday.

The media’s motion argues that the prosecution is asking the court to violate their First Amendment right to gather news and information, and they cannot satisfy “the demanding standard governing the issuance of gag orders.”

The defense has been using blogs, Facebook and Twitter to post information about the case, and prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda alleged in the request for the gag order that if the defense continues speaking publicly about the case, it will be impossible to find impartial jurors. Zimmerman’s attorneys wrote on their website that they are confident everything they have posted does not violate any Florida laws.

The defense team also posted a statement on its website asking Zimmerman supporters to send them “potentially questionable statements” so that they can prepare for the hearing.

“We are confident all our statements are easily defendable, we just want to know what we’re likely going to have thrown back at us,” the statement said.

Previously, more than a dozen news media organizations challenged prosecutors’ attempts to seal court records and close hearings in the high-profile prosecution. Last Friday, Nelson denied the prosecution’s request. She also allowed the defense to obtain through discovery procedures Trayvon Martin’s school records and social media accounts but ruled that the information would be exempt from public disclosure.

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the February shooting death of 17-year-old Martin. Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer, claims he shot the teenager in self-defense, and the racially charged case has garnered national attention.

Related Reporters Committee resources:

· The First Amendment Handbook: Introduction — Fair trials — National security — Law enforcement investigations