IN THE DYLANN ROOF CASE … IT’S A WORTHY QUESTION
This post is in reference to a gag order placed on the release of information related to the prosecution of Dylann Storm Roof – the 21-year-old confessed perpetrator of last month’s “Holy City Massacre.”
“The gag order will dissolve,” S.C. circuit court judge J.C. Nicholson said this week.
In other words, unless state and federal investigators, Roof’s attorneys and the families of the Mother Emanuel AME Church victims all agree – the public isn’t going to see crime scene photographs or hear 911 calls made at the time of the tragic, racially motivated attack.
Writing for Statehouse Report, columnist Andy Brack argues this is a good thing.
According to Brack’s latest column, Nicholson “should stand his ground and keep a gag order in place so images and sounds don’t spread throughout the world in an Internet flash.”
“These images and sounds eventually will be heard – during a trial,” Brack wrote. “Until then, the court, prosecutors and defense lawyers should insist they remain private to keep from inflaming public opinion.”
Brack says keeping a lid on the sensitive information is, for now, “the right thing to do.” But he also argues there’s a fundamental due process issue at stake.
“In a rush to sell more newspapers or grab more Internet eyeballs, (the media is) not sharing the other side,” he wrote. “They seem to forget that in American jurisprudence, anyone who is accused of a crime has a right to a fair trial — no matter how much people may not like that for one reason or another.”
That’s true …
This is a classic case of competing liberties – the right of the press to have immediate, unfettered access to public information versus the right of the accused to receive a fair trail. It’s a situation in which circumstantial discernment is required – not unlike the debate over religious freedom versus liberty-depriving discrimination.
Where do we draw the line?
In Roof’s case we believe his confession – and the manifesto he wrote foreshadowing the violence he carried out – makes the “fair trial” argument far less compelling in this case.
Seriously, he did it. And admitted he did it. And admitted why he did it.
Having said that, if there’s no disputing that the information is eventually going to be released (you know, unlike certain sections of the 9/11 report) then we have a hard time getting our backs up demanding it be released now.
Our default setting is simple: The public has a right to public information. Without delay. And without exception. And if it were up to us, that standard would apply to all of the materials being sought in connection with the Roof case.
But Brack makes a very compelling argument on behalf of Nicholson’s decision … one we’d encourage all of our readers to check out.