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'No access' order in Martha Stewart jury selection reaffirmed

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‘No access’ order in Martha Stewart jury selection reaffirmed

  • Following a federal judge’s order to exclude reporters and the public from covering jury selection in the Martha Stewart trial, attorneys for numerous media organizations urged the judge to reconsider and reverse the order, but the judge reaffirmed her own order Friday afternoon.

Jan. 16, 2004 — A federal judge today reaffirmed her Jan. 15 order to bar the media and public from individual jury selection in the securities fraud and obstruction of justice trial of Martha Stewart and her former stockbroker, in the face of severe opposition from the news media.

In court papers filed today, attorneys representing 17 media organizations said the high visibility of the case is not justification enough for restricting public access to monitor case proceedings.

“Because this case is newsworthy, it is all the more important to protect the right of access in order to reassure the public that the law is being applied evenhandedly, and that justice is being done,” the papers argued.

U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum of the Southern District Court of New York in Manhattan, who issued the restrictive order, reiterated that the order would stand after hearing oral arguments by the media organizations today.

The media organizations in opposition to Cederbaum’s order include ABC, The AP, Bloomberg News, CBS, CNN, Dow Jones NewsWires, Fox News, Fox Television Stations, NBC, Newsday, the Daily News, the New York Law Journal, the New York Post, The New York Times, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal.

Juror interviews are scheduled to begin Jan. 20, which will be the first day in court for Stewart and her former Merrill Lynch & Co. stockbroker, Peter Bacanovic. Traditionally, juror interviews are held in secret only in very rare circumstances, such as mob and drug cases, where a possible risk of physical harm to a publicly named juror exists.

If Cedarbaum elects not to reverse her order, the news media will not be allowed to attend the jury selection but would receive transcripts of the proceedings the next day. According to Cedarbaum’s order, the transcripts would exclude juror names.

In entering her order initially, Cedarbaum found “a substantial risk that such publication or the possibility of such publication would prevent prospective jurors from giving full and frank answers to questions posed to them,” according to a Jan.15 AP story.

Stewart allegedly lied to investigators about why she dumped stockholdings in ImClone Systems on Dec. 27, 2001, immediately before the stock plummeted based on health regulators rejection of the company’s key cancer drug.

The prosecution says Stewart received a tip that Sam Waksal, founder of ImClone, was attempting to sell his shares. Stewart, however, claims that she and Bacanovic had a pre-existing agreement to sell the stock when the price fell to $60.

Opening statements of the trial will commence once jury selection concludes, and the case is scheduled to last approximately six weeks, according to Reuters.

(United States v. Stewart; Media intervenors’ counsel: David Schulz, Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, New York, N.Y.) AB

© 2004 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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