Ohio Paper Goes to Court Over Ban on Photos of Teen Defendant

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A newspaper filed a complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court against a Franklin County judge who barred photographs of a 15-year-old defendant, saying the judge should have allowed time for the newspaper’s attorneys to get to the courtroom and argue for access.

The Columbus Dispatch asked justices to order Judge Chris Geer to allow photographs at the boy’s sentencing in March, and to ban the judge from blocking photographs in the future without first holding a hearing.

The newspaper said Geer denied its request to photograph the plea hearing Friday for Elijah Nichols in Franklin County Juvenile Court because the boy’s family didn’t want him photographed.

The judge allowed a Dispatch reporter to call the newspaper’s attorneys but started the hearing after a delay of about 15 minutes when the reporter asked for more time. Geer said the hearing was already late and other cases were waiting, the newspaper reported Saturday.

“We respect the judge’s need to keep cases moving in his courtroom,” said Benjamin Marrison, Dispatch editor. “However, the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that everyone is entitled to due process, including those of us who fight to keep courtrooms open.”

Geer said he would hold a hearing before sentencing to decide if Nichols can be photographed.

A message seeking comment on the complaint was sent Saturday to an e-mail address for Geer’s campaign. Geer does not have a listed home telephone number, and the juvenile court telephone rang unanswered.

Nichols admitted to juvenile delinquency by involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors accuse him of going through the pockets of Terry Ward, 43, after another teenager in a group of teens punched him to death Sept. 1.

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