News organizations to ask judge to reconsider camera, tape recorder ban

Thursday, October 1, 1998

Media groups plan to ask a Kentucky judge to reconsider his ban on cameras and audio recorders from the trial of the 15-year-old Paducah boy charged with killing three schoolmates and injuring five others at Heath High School last December.

McCracken Circuit Judge Jeff Hines on Tuesday said such an order was needed because many of the witnesses in the case against Michael Carneal will be juveniles or students. Commonwealth Attorney Tim Kaltenbach had argued that the presence of cameras might cause witnesses to dramatize their testimony.

Jon Fleischaker, a Louisville-based media attorney, said that he will try to get Hines to reconsider his order early next week.

“People want to see what happens,” Fleischaker said. “We're talking about a small town, a single case that is highly, emotionally charged.”

Fleischaker represents The Associated Press, The Paducah Sun, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal, the Kentucky Press Association and WPSD-TV Ch. 6.

Hines' previous media-policy order allowed one pool television camera, two still photographers and unlimited audio recorders.

According to The Courier-Journal, concern grew when Comcast Cable of Paducah considered broadcasting the trial live to more than 20,000 customers in the region by tapping into the courtroom's closed-circuit video court-reporting system.

Attorneys for Carneal yesterday asked to change his pleas from innocent to guilty but mentally ill. He faces three counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder. His trial is scheduled to begin Monday with jury selection.

The media policy is not the only order by Hines that has been challenged in the Carneal case. A gag order imposed on all parties involved with the case was appealed to a three-judge panel of the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

The appeals court panel found that the order was unjustified and violated free-speech rights. On Aug. 27 Hines responded to the panel's decision to strike the order by filing a request with the appeals court to clarify its Aug. 17 ruling that judges must first hold hearings before limiting public comment in criminal cases.

Hines' attorney, G. Michael Dalton, said that the court has not yet clarified the ruling and that no gag order is in effect.