Defendants Face Gag Order in Fla.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Miami-Dade state court judge yesterday imposed a gag order on the cases involving the four men charged with killing Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor and granted a protective order to seal certain court records, rejecting arguments made by attorneys for The Washington Post Co., Miami Herald and CNN.

The defendants -- Eric Rivera Jr., 17; Jason Scott Mitchell, 18; Charles Kendrick Lee Wardlow, 19; and Venjah K. Hunte, 20 -- are scheduled to go to trial April 7.

Judge Dennis J. Murphy said he feared the defendants would not receive a fair trial without intervention by the court given the extensive publicity surrounding the case and attorneys' previous comments to the media. Taylor was shot in his home during what police said was a bungled burglary Nov. 26 and died a day later.

Karen Williams Kammer argued for The Post's TV station in Miami that state law provided sufficient boundaries for what lawyers or officials could or could not say about cases. Murphy said the case was peculiar because all four defendants face the same first-degree felony murder and armed burglary charges and statements made by an attorney for one defendant likely would have repercussions for all four.

-- Amy Shipley

© 2008 The Washington Post Company