Ban lifted on identification of murder suspect’s young children

Friday, March 6, 1998

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (AP) – A district judge struck down as unconstitutional his own order banning the media from publishing the names or photographs of the three children of Lone Tree murder suspect James Garner.

Douglas County District Judge Thomas Curry made the original ruling on Feb. 20. The order stemmed from a request by attorneys in the juvenile court case concerning the welfare of Garner’s three children.

“Each time their name comes out in the newspaper, they are suffering further, at school and with their friends,” said Jeri Williams, an attorney for the Douglas County Department of Health and Human Services.

But media attorney Tom Kelley said those close to the children already knew what happened and who the children were.

“There is no point in worrying about protecting our children if we don’t protect the basics that make this society worth living in,” Kelley said. “Our First Amendment rights to free expression are just as precious and vulnerable as children.”

Curry agreed Thursday, noting the names and ages of Garner’s three daughters, Sophia, 1 month old; Sadie, 3; and Sydney, 5, had been published before the criminal and juvenile cases were filed.

Curry said his ruling amounted to “prior restraint” on the right to publish. He said their names were lawfully obtained and in the public domain long before Garner was arrested on Jan. 23.

“This court did enter a prior restraint order in this case, and I find that constitutionally that order cannot stand up,” he said.

Garner has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his wife, Lisa, and her parents, David and Mary Ann Hanschu. They were found shot in the face inside the Hanschus’ Lone Tree townhome on Jan. 19. The children now live with their aunt, Sonja Hanschu.

David Furman, the children’s court-appointed guardian, said he would appeal the ruling.