View Full Version : Ruling on gag order in Michael King case

01-29-2008, 01:51 PM
Ruling on gag order in Michael King case coming Tuesday
(Last updated: January 28, 2008 11:56 AM)

Circuit Judge Deno Economou said today he will issue a decision Tuesday afternoon on a motion for a gag order in the case against Michael King.

King is accused of kidnapping and murdering Denise Amber Lee, a 21-year-old North Port mother of two who was found dead in the woods off Interstate 75 on Dec. 19. King is currently in the Sarasota County Jail.

The gag order would cover any person employed by state, county or local governments, attorneys, parties, witnesses, law enforcement and court personnel from disclosing information to the news media concerning this proceeding. The public defenders represeting King asked for the gag order Thursday, saying further media coverage could prejudice King's right to a fair trial.

One media attorney argued against the case. However, the 12th circuit judge said he would issue his ruling Tuesday afternoon from his courtroom in the Sarasota County Courthouse on Ringling Boulevard.

In another move during the motion hearing this morning, Economou ruled the defense cannot individually question grand jurors and prospective grand jurors in the case against King. The defense asked the court to allow the public defenders to assure the prospective jurors were unbiased.

Alternatively, the judge could question those jurors hmself. Economou, however, said assuring the grand jury is unbiased and impartial is a normal part of the state's role in assembling the grand jury, and ruled neither the defense nor the judge will separately question those jurors.

The judge did, however, say the state's attorney will ask the whole group of jurors about any possible bias, and any individual juror may speak privately with the state's attorney if there is any question.

For more on this story, come back later to this Web site or pick up a Tuesday edition of the Sun.

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01-30-2008, 03:29 PM
Judge denies Michael King’s request for gag order

SARASOTA — Circuit Judge Deno Economou denied Tuesday a public defender’s request for a gag order in the state’s case against Michael King, 36, for the kidnapping and murder of Denise Amber Lee.
King is being held in Sarasota County Jail without bond on charges of kidnapping and killing Lee, 21, a North Port wife and mother of two young boys.
The judge held that a “prohibition on disclosure is not necessary to protect the defendant’s right to a fair trial.”
The judge cited a 1982 case, Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Lewis, that stated a gag order is appropriate only if it is necessary to prevent a serious threat to justice, no alternatives are available to preserve the defendant’s right to a fair trial (other than a change of venue), and a gag order would be effective to protect the defendant’s rights.
King’s attorneys requested the gag order last week, contending King’s right to a fair trial would be prejudiced by all the pretrial publicity.
However, a Sarasota newspaper asked to intervene. Attorney Rachel Fugate of Tampa argued the court shouldn’t restrict the media’s access to information about the case unless there is no other way to assure King’s right to a fair trial.
“Publicity alone is not a sufficient reason” to prohibit the release of facts, Fugate said during oral arguments Monday.
The State Attorney’s Office did not express a strong opinion, only noting under the Rules of Professional Conduct, lawyers may not make statements outside the courtroom that they know could prejudice the case.
The defense also wanted to question prospective grand jurors to see whether, because of pretrial publicity, they cannot be unbiased or impartial.
However, ruling from the bench Monday, the judge denied that request. Instead, he directed the state attorney to assure the jurors could act impartially and without prejudice.