Members of the North Texas legal community believe a judge went too far in imposing a far-reaching gag order in an East Texas multiple-murder case.
William Hudson, 33, was charged with six counts of capital murder for the deaths of six people, including a six-year-old boy, that happened on a rural East Texas property.
Anderson County Judge Deborah Oakes-Evans issued a nearly unprecedented gag order, asked for by Hudson’s attorney, in the case that prohibits:
Media videotaping or photographing the defendant going from jail to the courthouse or back
Reporting evidence discussed in public proceedings like pre-trial hearings
Reporting testimony at trial, only allowing identifying who testified
“Truthfully speaking, if I was a reporter I would simply just ignore the order and literally challenge the judge to try to do something to me and the judge is going to lose,” said defense attorney George Milner, who is not connected to the case.
“The media has a duty, not just a right, but a duty to investigate matters of public interest. That’s why we have the First Amendment, but you also have a Sixth Amendment right to a speedy and public trial.”
Retired Judge Mike Snipes presided over high profile capital cases, including the district attorney murders in Kaufman County. He called the gag order a constitutional error.
“The public has a right to know whether they can have faith or lack of faith in their criminal justice system,” Snipes said.
The attorney for Hudson asked in his motion that the judge holds pre-trial hearings in her chambers outside the presence and hearing of the public and the press.
It appears the judge has granted the motion in its entirety, which means some of what should be out in the open in the case will be carried out in secret.