Thursday, November 22, 2012

Federal judge keeps ban on contacting jurors but will contact them on behalf of Herald-Leader

U.S. District Judge Greg Van Tatenhove is allowing the Lexington Herald-Leader to contact certain jurors in the groundbreaking case of kidnapping and assault of a gay man in Harlan County, but he  declined to strike down a Kentucky federal-court rule against contacting jurors in criminal trials.

"Jason and Anthony Jenkins were charged with attacking the victim, Kevin Pennington, in April 2011 because of his sexual orientation," a hate crime, Bill Estep of the Herald-Leader recounts. "The Jenkins cousins were the first people in the nation tried under a section of the federal hate-crime law that makes it illegal to injure someone because of the victim's real or perceived sexual orientation."

The jury convicted the cousins on kidnapping and conspiracy charges Oct. 24 but acquitted them of the hate-crime charge. "That was a setback for the government in its first attempt to win a conviction at trial under the gay-bias section of the hate-crime law," Estep notes. "The Herald-Leader refrained from contacting jurors for comment on their reasoning in the decision because of a court rule."

The newspaper asked Van Tatenhove to strike down the rule as an unconstitutional infringement of its First Amendment right to gather news. The judge declined, but noting that the rule allows journalists to contact jurors with a judge's permission, said he would ask the jurors if they are willing to be interviewed and provide the names to the paper. (Read more)
Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/11/21/2416764/judge-allows-newspaper-to-contact.html#emlnl=Breaking_news#storylink=cpy

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