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Press group plans to challenge gag rules on criminal trials

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  1. Court Access

    NMU         ILLINOIS         Secret Courts         Mar 31, 2000    

Press group plans to challenge gag rules on criminal trials

  • New rules of the Supreme Court forbid defense attorneys, prosecutors and police to discuss most aspects of a criminal case outside of court.

Journalists and prosecutors are decrying new state Supreme Court rules that bar prosecutors and law-enforcement officers from discussing pending criminal cases.

A court spokesman has said that changes to Rules 3.6 and 3.8 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct were needed to ensure criminal defendants get fair trials before impartial jurors, but opponents said they deprive the public of valuable information and are an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech.

“This takes away information each citizen needs to determine how safe they feel or how well the judicial system is working,” St. Clair County prosecutor Robert Haida told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Illinois Press Association has announced plans to challenge the rule in federal court.

Rule 3.6 prevents police and attorneys from making out-of-court statements about a defendant’s criminal record, character or credibility, as well as giving opinions about a person’s guilt or innocence, among other things. Rule 3.8 requires prosecutors to make reasonable efforts to prevent their assistants and police from releasing the same information.

The changes, which went into effect March 16, are similar to rules adopted by the American Bar Association in 1994 that govern attorney conduct.

© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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