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Order prohibiting media from showing faces of minors rescinded

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  1. Prior Restraint

    NMU         VERMONT         Prior Restraints         Dec 16, 1999    

Order prohibiting media from showing faces of minors rescinded

  • Photographs and videotape of three minors who are facing criminal charges of disorderly conduct can be shown by the media now that an erroneous court order against showing such images has been lifted.

Stating that a court clerk had entered an order against the media in error, a Vermont state court judge rescinded a two-day-old prior restraint order in late November that had prohibited the media from showing the faces of three minors facing criminal charges.

A Nov. 22 order bearing the signature of Franklin County Superior Judge Howard E. VanBenthuysen in St. Albans had stated in its entirety, “It is ordered that the juvenile’s [sic.] faces shall not be shown by print or electronic media.” After media groups filed protests against the order the next day, VanBenthuysen issued an order on Nov. 24 stating that he had been on vacation on the day that the prior restraint had been improperly entered by the court clerk.

“[A]t some point during the 22nd, a clerk read a note left by the undersigned in one of the files and issued an ‘order’ purporting to limit photography of the juvenile defendants,” the Nov. 24 order read. “The undersigned did not issue, sign or authorize this ‘order’ and was unaware of its existence until the evening of Nov. 23rd.”

The Burlington Free Press, the St. Albans Messenger and the Associated Press filed the protest against the original order. The media organizations argued in court filings that the order violated the media’s rights under the U.S. and Vermont Constitutions.

The underlying case involves three minors whom the state has charged as adults with disorderly conduct, according to a Nov. 23 Free Press article. The charges concern an alleged plot to kill school administrators, which the students say was not meant to be taken seriously, according to the article.

(Vermont v. West et al.; Media Counsel: Dennis R. Pearson, Burlington)


© 1999 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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