Supremes Won’t Hear Jury Gag-Order Case

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By: Gina Holland, Associated Press Writer

(AP) The Supreme Court refused Monday to consider whether judges can block reporters from talking to jurors after a trial.

The court, without comment, rejected an appeal of a gag order in a high-profile case involving a New Jersey rabbi accused of arranging his wife’s murder.

Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer, argued that the judge’s order violated First Amendment free-speech rights. Some of the newspaper’s reporters were punished for interviewing jurors after Rabbi Fred J. Neulander’s 2001 trial.

The jury deadlocked, and the judge said published details about the first jury’s deliberations would make it harder to find an impartial panel for a retrial.

Neulander was convicted at a second trial and sentenced to life in prison for hiring two men to kill his wife. Carol Neulander was bludgeoned to death with a pipe in 1994 while her husband was at temple.

The New Jersey Supreme Court upheld the ban.

Media groups including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the American Society of Newspaper Editors had urged the Supreme Court to review the case.

“Courts throughout the country have been chipping away at the public’s ability to learn what is happening in its criminal justice system by issuing orders that prevent journalists from interviewing — or even identifying — discharged jurors,” attorney Lucy Dalglish wrote in court papers. “Without the ability to gather information, the press is effectively censored.”

Four Philadelphia Inquirer reporters were fined for a story in which they quoted a juror. Three of the reporters also were ordered to perform community service, or go to jail. The case is Philadelphia Newspapers v. New Jersey, 02-945.

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