By: Joel Davis

California Newspapers Object To Judge’s Ruling

by Joel Davis

A Northern California judge has issued a sweeping gag order in the
case of a man accused of kidnapping and molesting an 8-year-old Vallejo
girl. The news media object to the gag order and are facing an ethical
question over naming the young victim, who was widely identified when
she disappeared.

Solano County Superior Court Judge Allan Carter imposed the order Aug.
24. It reportedly bars attorneys and law officials from public statements
about the case or releasing information that has not been admitted as
evidence. Public statements have been restricted to such information as
39-year-old defendant Curtis Dean Anderson’s age, the court schedule and
direct quotes from public records.

Those violating the gag order can be found in contempt of court, fined
or sentenced to jail. The Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle,
and the San Francisco Examiner all protested the order. The judge
declined to hear their objections and will address them at a hearing
set for Thursday.

Meanwhile, newspaper editors have struggled over whether to continue to
name the young victim in the case, who was kidnapped and subsequently
molested Aug. 10 and heroically escaped to a safe return to her family
a few days later. While most Northern California papers are no longer
identifying the victim by name, the San Jose Mercury News continues to
do so in certain stories, and the San Francisco Chronicle named the girl
in stories subsequent to Anderson’s arrest, though it will cease doing
so during the trial.

‘Her name was already out there,’ Chronicle Managing Editor Jerry Roberts
told the Examiner. ‘As a practical matter, [naming her] was not going to
have an impact.’

Stephanie Salter, an Examiner columnist, wrote that the victim’s identity
should be used, reasoning that her heroic escape has been obscured by the
sexual assault and that not naming her made her sexual victimization ‘the
most important thing about her.’


Joel Davis ( is West Coast editor for E&P.

(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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