Judge allows Court TV at trial
September 30, 2005
MINDEN – Judge Michael Gibbons has cleared the way for Court TV to broadcast proceedings over the Internet in the trial here of Michael Ward, who is accused in the death of Jeffrey John of Markleeville.
Gibbons said he would allow a camera in the courtroom for the trial, which begins next week, over the objections of prosecutor Dina Salvucci.
Salvucci said she was concerned the effect a live broadcast would have on witnesses, some of whom are reluctant to testify.
Gibbons cited constitutional precedence.
“Back in 1791, there was no broadcast media, but there was print media,” he said. “It was important to the Founding Fathers to make proceedings public to ensure fairness. That’s why it’s the First Amendment.
“As a general rule I always open the proceedings. Any exception is infrequent and narrowly drawn,” Gibbons said.
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Reno attorney Chris Wicker, who represented Court TV, said the cable network would provide gavel-to-gavel coverage.
The trial is to be broadcast over the Court TV Web site.
Gibbons said the jury could not be filmed or photographed in or outside the courtroom.
Wicker said the network would prefer two cameras in the courtroom but would be willing to use one.
Gibbons said he couldn’t make a final determination until the equipment is set up.
Neither side objected to the presence of a Record-Courier photographer at the proceedings.
Ward, 21, was charged with battery with a deadly weapon causing substantial bodily harm, battery causing substantial bodily harm and involuntary manslaughter in the June 24 death of 24-year-old John.
He was accused of cutting John with a knife, hitting and kicking him and killing the father of four during the commission of an unlawful act.
Ward has been in Douglas County Jail since the incident on $100,000 bail.
A report from the Washoe County coroner’s office indicates the immediate cause of John’s death was probable cardiac arrhythmia – an unnatural change in the beating function of the heart – following a physical altercation.
Ward pleaded not guilty and a trial is set to start Tuesday.
His lawyer, Kevin Walsh, told Gibbons on Thursday he believes he has evidence to exonerate his client that the prosecution has not explored.
He said he may be asking for a short continuance next week depending on how successful he is with the District Attorney’s Office in plea negotiations.
“I’m confident this man will be set free or given time served,” Walsh said.
At the conclusion of the 90-minute hearing Thursday, Gibbons urged lawyers and the public to maintain decorum. About a dozen friends and family members attended Thursday’s proceeding.
“I remind you the defendant is presumed to be innocent,” Gibbons said. “Avoid conflict and don’t make statements if you’re not sure what the facts are. Wait until you see the facts of the whole trial.”
The trial is set for eight days.
— Sheila Gardner may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 782-5121, ext. 214.