- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 25, 2016

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - A prosecutor said a judge’s gag order in a murder case violates free speech and infringes on the prosecutor’s ability to consult with the victim’s family and on his rights to communicate with the citizens he was elected to represent.

Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel is pushing back against Circuit Court Judge Michael Adler’s Aug. 18 order barring all parties in the case, including all lawyers and the DA’s office, from talking about the case if those comments could reach the public.

The objection, obtained by The Associated Press via online court records, was filed on Monday by the Oregon Attorney General. It asks for a hearing on the matter or for the order to be vacated.

The gag order was issued in the case against a Redmond man, Edward Lara, who is charged with killing 23-year-old Kaylee Sawyer, of Bend. Lara was working as a security guard at Central Oregon Community College where Sawyer disappeared. Her body found days later in a ravine near a rural highway.

Lara is also accused of shooting and wounding a man and carjacking a vehicle in Northern California. He was arrested by the California Highway Patrol and brought back to Bend.

The objection to Adler’s gag order said it “is overbroad as it prohibits protected speech under both the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as Oregon’s Constitution.”

The Oregon Department of Justice is representing Hummel in his request, Kristina Edmunson, the attorney general’s communications director, told the AP in an email. She said it is common for the justice department to represent district attorneys.

The motion asserted that Hummel has a right as an elected public official to account for the conduct of his office, and that if he decides to ask a jury to impose the death penalty on Lara if he is convicted, that “the citizens deserve more” than being informed about it after the trial.

Hummel said in a text message to the AP on Tuesday that he cannot comment further on the gag order because the order prevents him from doing so.

In an interview with the AP on May 31, Hummel emphasized that he believes in openness in the justice system.

“As a prosecutor, my goal is not just to convict people who are alleged to have committed a crime. My job is to do justice,” he said. “I want people in this community to have confidence in their justice system.”

Lara is being held in the Deschutes County Jail. His trial is scheduled to begin next October.

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