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Reporter faces contempt for identifying juveniles charged with murder

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    NMU         SOUTH CAROLINA         Prior Restraints         Jan 5, 2000    

Reporter faces contempt for identifying juveniles charged with murder

  • A family court judge wants to hold a newspaper reporter in criminal contempt of court after the newspaper disregarded his order to cease publishing the names of two juveniles accused of murdering a woman during a robbery.

A South Carolina judge has threatened to hold a newspaper reporter in criminal contempt for publishing the names of two juveniles charged with murder, even though the reporter obtained the names from the sheriff, according to The (Sumter) Item and the Associated Press.

After The Item printed the names of the juveniles, Manning Family Court Judge Wright Turbeville ordered the newspaper on Dec. 30 to cease publishing the names and threatened reporter Denise Jones with criminal comtempt for any violation. The newspaper printed the names again in its edition published later that day.

In response to the controversy, the South Carolina Attorney General has opined that he believes that the newspaper is within its rights to continue publishing the names. “It looks like [publisher Hubert D. Osteen Jr.] is well within his constitutional rights to publish the names,” state Attorney General Charlie Condon told the AP.

“We obtained this information lawfully, it is truthful, and it’s a matter of overriding public interest,” Osteen told The Item. “Therefore, we feel fully justified in printing their names, and we will continue to do so.”

In issuing the gag order, Turbeville reportedly said that state law prohibits making the name or picture of a child under the court’s jurisdiction public unless the child has been indicted. Turbeville issued his gag order in response to requests made by attorneys for the juvenile suspects.

According to The Item, the newspaper got the names of the juvenile suspects from two Sumter County Sheriff’s Office press releases in the days following the Dec. 20 shooting that killed 54-year-old Ella Mae Prioleau. The minors and one adult have been charged with murder, armed robbery, and assault and battery with intent to kill.

Perry Lloyd, 56, was locking up his store when the robbery occurred, and Prioleau, Lloyd’s common-law wife who waited outside in a pickup truck, was killed during an exchange of gunfire between the suspects and Lloyd, police said.

(Counsel for South Carolina Press Association: Jerry Jay Bender, Columbia)

© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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