ADDS REVERSAL OF the JUDGE in the ORIGINAL ORDER a BAN on PUBLICATION WEDNESDAY – In this Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018 photograph, Ramon Alberto Escobar, with an unknown lawyer, appears during a hearing in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Escobar was indicted for three counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder and four counts of second-degree robbery in attacks involving homeless men in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, Calif. The photo may not be published Wednesday, because the Judge Gustavo Sztraicher, after first permitting photography, ordered to stop recording after it was started. Sztraicher reversed the order Thursday, Sept. 27, after the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times successfully challenged as an unconstitutional infringement on free speech. (AP Photo Damian Dovarganes)
LOS ANGELES – a Los Angeles judge on Thursday reversed an order barring journalists publishing a courtroom photo of a Texas man charged with the beating death of three men in Southern California.
The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times successfully challenged Superior Court Judge Gustavo Sztraicher’s order as an unconstitutional infringement on free speech.
Sztraicher on Wednesday ordered reporters to stop filming and photographing as a lawyer for Ramon Escobar objected.
Dan Laidman, who represented the Times and the AP, argued that a higher court struck the prior restraint orders to restrict the coverage of the criminal proceedings. In addition, Laidman said, the media has published photos of Escobar, who is charged in three murders and five other attacks of people sleeping outside in Los Angeles County this month.
Laidman added that the journalists took pictures of a day earlier, after obtaining the judge’s blessing.
Deputy Public Defender Jennifer Friedman argued Thursday that the photos and video taken of Escobar a day earlier were unlawful because the judge had not signed a written copy of a media request for the recording of the procedure.
Friedman also said that they fear that the photos could taint the testimony of potential witnesses.
During the Wednesday hearing, Sztraicher in the first instance, told journalists that he had agreed with a request to photograph. But as a journalist started shooting, Escobar’s lawyer objected, telling the court it may lead to “identification of the problem.” Sztraicher then ordered the journalists to stop photographing the procedure and also told a sketch artist to stop drawing.
David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, hailed the decision of the judge to vacate his order.
“It should never have been issued in the first place,” he said. “I am pleased that the judge saw the light of day.”
Defense attorneys often argue that the publication of their client’s image for the process may be wrong swing of the witnesses, Snyder said, and a state court in California have broad discretion over the question whether photography is allowed in their courtrooms. As soon as the photos are taken legally, but “the toothpaste is out of the tube and the court may not prevent them from being spread,” he added.
Researchers believe that Escobar, 47, bludgeoned his victims as they slept on the beach or on the streets, to rob. He was ordered held without bail pending a Nov. 8 accusation.
The police in Houston to interview Escobar in the disappearance last month of his uncle and aunt.
The El Salvador native has a long criminal history, including six misdemeanor convictions for theft and illegal re-entry, but the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released him from custody after Escobar won an appeal in immigration court in 2016.
Associated Press writers Elliot Balancing in San Diego, and David Warren in Dallas contributed to this.
Follow Weber https://twitter.com/WeberCM .