Gag orders imposed in Minnesota, Oklahoma

Friday, February 4, 2000

A roundup of recent judicial gag orders.

Oklahoma: Attorney fights order in shooting death case
ENID — The attorney for an Air Force master sergeant on trial for murder is fighting a judge’s gag order in the case. Stephen Jones filed a petition with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Jan. 31 to prevent District Judge Ronald Franklin from enforcing the gag order. Franklin issued the order Jan. 11 when he arraigned Bryan C. Winderweedle on a first-degree murder charge in the shooting death of his ex-wife’s lover. Franklin said he wanted to ensure a fair trial in the face of “high publicity” since the shooting last July. Jones contends that Franklin’s order violates the First Amendment, the Oklahoma Constitution and the state’s Code of Professional Responsibility. He also argues that the order has no legal basis because there was no hearing or notice before it was issued. Enid News & Eagle
Minnesota: Temporary muzzle in murder trial
PRESTON — A judge has continued a gag order on attorneys at the murder trial of Harold “Howie” Kramer Jr. but lifted restrictions on access to court files. On Jan. 27, District Judge Robert Benson ordered attorneys not to “discuss this case with any member of the public not directly involved” in the case. He also ruled that no evidentiary documents in the case files could be photocopied. Benson ruled on Feb. 2 that the restrictions on attorneys talking about the case would be lifted when a jury was seated. Jury selection is taking place this week. He also vacated his order banning the copying of evidentiary documents after the Associated Press, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis and WCCO-TV argued that the ruling conflicted with access rules issued by the state Supreme Court. Kramer, 26, of Brownsville, Minn., is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his son Kenny last May. Associated Press/ Rochester, Minn., Post Bulletin
Oklahoma: Former teacher’s sex-crime trial
FREDERICK — A judge has set a new trial date for a former Altus (Okla.) Middle School teacher accused of sex crimes involving three of his former students. Associate District Judge David Barnett declared the mistrial and issued a gag order in the case against Gene Paul Ray on Jan. 31 after three hours of consultations with prosecutors and defense attorneys. Barnett told the Altus Times the decision dealt with an issue that came up during the jury selection process and an “evidentiary” issue that did not come up until recently. Barnett told the jury of eight men and four women that the mistrial was essential. He set a new trial date for May 8. Ray, 45, is charged with four counts of lewd molestation, one count of forcible oral sodomy, two counts of first-degree rape and one count of attempted first-degree rape. Associated Press