Freedom of the press? Try telling that to your average crime scene reporters and photographers.
For years, we and other newspapers have complained in futility about cops who want to play editor. Arrive on a scene and identify yourself as a newspaper or television representative and you will be corralled along with others of your ilk in some isolated area out of view of the scene, lest you photograph something the cops don’t want the public to see. Might be a dead body, an injured cop, a victim or something ghastly. Never mind that it is up to media to decide what to publish, and we do discriminate.
Meanwhile, ordinary citizens are allowed to come and go at will. Freedom of the citizen, if you will, but not the press.
Now that attitude has been extended to family court.
Today Review-Journal reporter Brian Haynes tells us that following a Monday child support hearing for Dr. Conrad Murray, whose medical care for late pop star Michael Jackson has drawn the scrutiny of authorities and the press, reporters were detained by bailiffs until Murray and his entourage could escape the building without being subjected to any pesky questions by those rude journalists.
"After the hearing, Murray and his entourage were allowed to leave the courtroom while bailiffs held about a dozen reporters inside against their will for ‘public safety’ reasons," Haynes writes. "The bailiffs released the reporters after Murray left the building several minutes later."
Ken Ritter of The Associated Press also reported on the detention of the press.
"Senior Clark County District Judge Gerald Hardcastle had left the bench when an armed, uniformed court marshal, Dennis Curran, politely declined several requests by journalists to let them leave.
"Curran said he was following orders. His supervisor, Sgt. Steve Rushfield, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment."
Ritter reported that Clark County courts spokesman Michael Sommermeyer was also among those detained. Sommermeyer later said he did not know why the courtroom exit was blocked, but it might have been to maintain safety and decorum.
"They’re police officers," Sommermeyer was quoted as saying. "I guess they can deem what is necessary for public safety."
The Review-Journal has prepared a letter to send to the judge in the case, Gerald Hardcastle.
It says, "We believe this conduct was outrageous. Reporters have a right to exit the courtroom at the same time as other participants or spectators to the proceedings. This was not a criminal matter and there were no security concerns present. We believe your bailiff’s actions serve to undermine respect for the court system since they showed favoritism for Dr. Murray."
Fourth Amendment: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."