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Newspapers and Criminal Prosecutions

Freedom of Speech of the Press is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and is applicable to the States, according to the Supreme Court in a case in 1930. As such, the trial court should not attempt to wholly prevent a newspaper from preventing crime news when it is released. The trial court may be requested by the defense to restrict press coverage of a case to statements made during the actual trial. However, the court can also control its own officers and the participants in the case. The way to do this is through a Protective Order (sometimes heard as a Gag Order). This will limit the information in which the prosecutor and the staff can divulge.

After arrest or the filing of a complaint, information or indictment until a trial starts, the prosecutor may not ethically make or participate in the making of an extra judicial statement that a reasonable person would expect to be disseminated by means of public communication and that relates to a number of different items. First, the character, reputation, or prior criminal record of the accused; Second, the possibility of a plea of guilty to the offense charged or to a lesser offense; Third, the existence or contents of any confession, admission or statement given by the accused or his refusal or failure to make a statement; Fourth, the performance or results of any examinations or tests or the refusal or failure of the accused to submit to examinations or tests; Fifth, the identity, testimony or credibility of a prospective witness; Sixth, any opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the accused, the evidence, or the merits of the case.

There are also certain things that the State may announce to the public, but they must be very limited and the restrictions are very tight on the information that can be released to the general public.

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