Judge denies motion to bar Craig Daily Press from courtroom coverage
September 28, 2015
Craig — District Court Judge Shelley Hill denied a motion Friday by Logan Otis and his attorney to bar the Craig Daily Press from the courtroom for future court proceedings in Otis' case. The 20-year-old was charged in May with vehicular homicide and driving under the influence, among other charges.
“We are thankful for Judge Hill’s ruling in denying Logan Otis’s motion of banning the Craig Daily Press from any further court hearings," said Daily Press Publisher Renee Campbell. "We're glad to see our First Amendment rights upheld.”
In the order, Hill asserts that the Daily Press must follow the rules for Expanded Media Coverage as laid out in the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, however that barring the newspaper from the courtroom was unwarranted.
"Excluding the press from court proceedings is a drastic step," Hill wrote in the order.
In a response to Otis' motion filed earlier this month, Daily Press attorney Christopher Beall argued against the violations presented by Otis' attorney, Deputy State Public Defender Molly Hamsher, and also upheld the media's basic right to cover public trials.
"The public at large would be denied any direct coverage of the case by virtue of the exclusion of the newspaper and its reporter," according to the Daily Press' response. "Such an outcome would have grave First Amendment implications because of its impact on the public's right to receive news reports from the news media concerning public trials."
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Otis filed a prior motion in May to limit pretrial publicity, which was denied by the court. The alleged violations presented in Otis' latest motion to ban the newspaper concerned a photograph taken of Otis by reporter Patrick Kelly May 12 and published in the newspaper May 13, and other photographs taken at a June 30 hearing but not published.
Hill dismissed Otis' claim that the Daily Press had taken a close-up photograph of communication between a defendant and their counsel, which is prohibited by Rule 2 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure.
However, Hill acknowledged that the Daily Press failed to request Expanded Media Coverage in order to take photographs at the June 30 hearing, and made clear that any future oversights would not be taken lightly by the court.