Thursday, February 26, 2015

Media groups fight to overturn gag order in trial of Massey Energy coal executive

More than 30 media and free speech organizations "are fighting to overturn a gag order and sealing order entered in connection with the criminal trial of Donald Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy," Tom Isler reports for Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press." The appeal is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Blankenship was indicted in November 2014 on mine-safety charges stemming from the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in 2010 that killed 29 people.

The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press, National Public Radio and Charleston Gazette are among media outlets that have "appealed the denial of their request to have the orders overturned," Isler writes. "The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, on behalf of 29 other media and free speech organizations, filed an amicus brief in support of the media petition."

After Blankenship was indicted, U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger "issued a gag order preventing anyone connected with the case—the parties, attorneys, potential witnesses, family members of 'actual and alleged victims' and others—from making 'any statements of any nature, in any form, or release any documents to the media or any other entity regarding the facts or substance of this case,” Isler writes. "The judge also ordered that access to all filings in the case would be restricted to case participants and court personnel." Berger said media coverage "was sufficiently likely to prejudice Blankenship’s right to a fair trial." (Read more)

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