Judge eases restrictions on Denison murder case
RENO (AP) – A judge granted most of a media request Friday to scale back limits he had placed on coverage of next week’s trial for the man accused of killing 19-year-old Brianna Denison and sexually assaulting two other young women.
Lawyers for a Reno newspaper and TV station told Washoe District Judge Robert Perry that his restrictions on photographs and courthouse interviews violated the First Amendment.
Perry said his earlier order was based on concerns about pretrial publicity in the high-profile case as well as the safety of witnesses who will testify against James Biela, who is charged with kidnapping, rape and murder in the string of attacks in 2007 and 2008 around the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno.
The judge initially banned photos of any witness who is not a law officer or an expert when jury selection begins Monday for the trial expected to last at least three weeks.
Perry also eased restrictions on media interviews on public sidewalks outside the courthouse and agreed to allow broadcasters to record testimony of the two sexual assault victims as long as their identity was kept secret and their voice electronically altered.
Biela, 29, was arrested in November 2008 after Harmon gave detectives permission to take blood from their son that authorities said was then used to match Biela’s DNA to DNA discovered on the body of Denison. She was found about a month after she was kidnapped from a friend’s couch in January 2008.