TV station appeals judge’s order blocking broadcast of video
JACKSON, Miss. — A Hattiesburg television station has asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to allow it to broadcast video it acquired of alleged abuse at the Forrest County Juvenile Detention Center.
Forrest County Youth Court Judge Mike McPhail last week barred WDAM from showing the video. McPhail ruled that WDAM failed to provide evidence of a need in showing the video.
The Supreme Court had not ruled as of Jan. 14 on the petition or set a hearing date.
Leonard Van Slyke, a First Amendment attorney representing WDAM, said on Jan. 14 that a supportive brief was being prepared and numerous national media organizations — including the Associated Press — had agreed to sign on to it.
WDAM has reported that a former employee of the detention center said the video shows alleged abuse of juveniles at the hands of guards. The station has reported that the sheriff's office confirms one guard was fired in 2009 for beating a juvenile, but so far no charges have been filed.
Van Slyke said that WDAM, in its petition filed on Jan. 13, argued that McPhail's order was an “unconstitutional prior restraint” on its ability to “publish truthful information of public significance.”
The station said that neither the youth court nor the state had shown any reason to control WDAM's use of the video.
Van Slyke earlier said that the tapes were a matter of public interest and that the station had a First Amendment right to air them.
McPhail had said the video would jeopardize juvenile privacy, while Van Slyke said privacy would be protected.
The petition states that WDAM had agreed to not disclose the identities of the juveniles involved and to “blur” the faces of the juveniles in the video to protect their identities.