- Associated Press - Thursday, August 13, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A state district court judge has prohibited media from publishing the names of juvenile witnesses during the trial of a Cheyenne teen accused of murder.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle is challenging an order issued by Laramie County District Court Judge Thomas Campbell this week.

The newspaper reports (https://bit.ly/1Mm2P76 ) that it filed a petition Wednesday with the Wyoming Supreme Court saying the judge’s order is unconstitutional prior restraint.

Prior restraint means a governmental body is restricting speech before it has a chance to happen.

The trial of Phillip Sam is set to begin Monday.

Sam is charged with one count of first-degree murder and 12 counts of aggravated assault. Police say he killed 19-year-old Tyler Burns on Oct. 5.

Sam was 16 at the time of the shooting.

The Tribune Eagle filed a petition Wednesday asking the state Supreme Court to review and reverse Campbell’s order.

The petition makes clear that the newspaper’s intention is not to delay the trial, but to seek expedited review of Campbell’s order.

The Supreme Court does not have to accept the petition; it can deny the request to review the order entirely.

Campbell’s order, filed on Wednesday, says the court considered “the rights of the defendant and the public, as well as issues of security and privacy.”

Alongside several other common media access provisions to which the Tribune Eagle does not object, the order says “no one may broadcast or publish a picture or video identifying a juvenile witness or release the name of a juvenile witness during the trial.”

It adds that “information revealed in open court is subject to (that) limitation up to and including the return verdict in this case.”

The order includes a footnote that says, “The privacy rights of minors who are victims or witnesses appearing by subpoena deserve and have the protection of law to the extent consistent with public access.”

The footnote goes on to say that “While necessary to use names in open court for reasons related to the jury’s understanding of the evidence, limiting the further dissemination of those names is appropriate in this case.”

The Tribune Eagle noted in its objection filed with the district court that it would prefer to have discretion regarding photographs of juvenile witnesses, but it is prepared to follow that order.

However, the newspaper strongly objected to the prohibition from using the names of juvenile witnesses used in open court.

“While the danger of violence may justify restricting the disclosure of the names to the public prior to a trial or pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request, an order restricting the media from publication of witness names disclosed in open court would be an unconstitutional prior restraint,” its objection says.

The objection argues that if a witness has already received threats, that means his or her identity is already known to the perpetrators.

“Further, once the name is revealed in court, then both defendant and the prosecution and a ‘courtroom of spectators’ know his/her identity, who may reveal it to others,” the objection says.


Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, https://www.wyomingnews.com

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