Monday, February 24, 2014

Judge rejects bid to bar photograph

A Marin County judge has turned down the request of a suspected bank robber who wanted a court order barring the Marin Independent Journal from publishing photographs of him.

According to the IJ, the judge earlier in the case denied the paper’s request to photograph Christopher Jay Wootton in the courtroom. Woottoon’s lawyer, public defender Michael Coffino, said publishing such a photograph could taint witnesses and prospective jurors, thereby depriving Wootton of his right to a fair trial.

However, the IJ’s Frankie Frost got pictures of Woottoon as he was being wheeled out of court in a wheelchair on Dec. 19.

Woottoon had been in the wheelchair at the time because of injuries he suffered after being shot by a deputy sheriff following a bank robbery.

Woottoon’s lawyer also argued that allowing the photograph to be published was a form of discrimination against the disabled. Normally inmates are escorted between the jail and court through interior passageways that aren’t accessible to news photographers. But because of a design quirk at the Civic Center, Woottoon had to be transported in a public area, where he was photographed.

The newspaper’s attorney, Duffy Carolan, opposed the request for an injunction, saying it amounted to prior restraint and the case did not come close to justifying the suppression of an American newspaper.

Judge James Chou denied Woottoon’s motion, saying his previous order only pertained to courtroom photography and didn’t apply to the courthouse’s exterior. He said the newspaper had lawfully obtained the photographs in a public place.

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