- Associated Press - Friday, August 14, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Wyoming Supreme Court will review a Laramie County District Court judge’s order prohibiting media from identifying juvenile witnesses named during a local teen’s murder trial.

The Supreme Court on Thursday granted the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s request for an expedited review of the judge’s order.

The newspaper reports (https://bit.ly/1hC8eeN ) that it asked the court to review and reverse the order, saying it is unconstitutional prior restraint. Prior restraint means a governmental body is restricting speech before it has a chance to happen.

Phillip Sam faces one count of first-degree murder and 12 counts of aggravated assault in the shooting death of 19-year-old Tyler Burns last October.

Sam was 16 years old at the time but is being tried as an adult. His trial starts Monday.

The Supreme Court’s order says it intends to issue a ruling on the newspaper’s petition by 5 p.m. Monday.

District Judge Thomas Campbell’s order, filed on Wednesday, says he 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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