ALABAMA — A state judge overturned the conviction of two television newscasters in early February who identified a juvenile charged in a shooting.
Judge John Jolly reversed the lower court in early February, finding that “no criminal sanction can result from the subsequent publication of the juvenile defendant’s identity following identity publication of the juvenile in a public forum.” Reporter Bob Ozbirn and news director Sheri Hensley of WOWL-TV in Florence had been convicted in September by Franklin County District Court Judge Ben Richey of violating an Alabama law that prohibits the disclosure of the names of juveniles in the juvenile court. Ozbirn and Hensley were sentenced to two days in jail, two years on probation and fined $100.
They appealed to the Franklin County Circuit Court in mid-October arguing that because the juvenile’s name had been made public during a bond hearing for a co- defendant the subsequent broadcast was not illegal, the Associated Press reported.
(State v. Ozbirn; State v. Hensley; Media Counsel: Don Holt, Florence)
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.