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Judge issues gag order in McDaniel case | News

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Judge issues gag order in McDaniel case

Judge Howard Simms filed the order Friday morning, saying media coverage may prejudice potential jurors.

His order covers lawyers, law enforcement officers, court officials and witnesses.

He cited coverage by the Telegraph, which he said has reported on the case at least 153 times in two and a half years, and 13WMAZ, which he said has covered the case at least 131 times.

VIEW: McDaniel Gag Order Document

Simms' order said the Telegraph recently published "very sensitive and prejudicial information" from an anonymous source "close to the investigation."

He also quoted comments from 13WMAZ's Facebook page from viewers who called McDaniel guilty.

"These are but two of the hundreds, if not thousands of similar comments" that show how media coverage could harm McDaniel's right to a fair trial, the judge wrote.

However, Gerry Weber, an attorney with the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, told 13WMAZ the order was not issued properly.

He says Simms should have explained reasons why other options, such as the change of venue request filed by the defense, would not minimize potential prejudice in the case.

"This order fails to do that," says Weber. "It fails to analyze why venue wouldn't work, why sequestration of witnesses wouldn't work, why postponement of the trial wouldn't work in order to address the prejudicial publicity that he's outlined."

McDaniel is accused of killing and dismembering his Mercer Law School classmate Lauren Giddings in June 2011. His trial is expected sometime this spring.

At a recent hearing, District Attorney David Cooke read a list of web sites allegedly visited by McDaniel, including sites that dealt with cannibalism and dismemberment.

After that hearing, defense lawyers filed a motion asking that the trial be held outside Bibb County or that outside jurors be brought in to hear the case.

The D.A. has agreed to that motion, but Simms has not ruled on it.




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