MIAMI – July 23, 2010 – Holland & Knight partner Scott Ponce obtained an Order this week allowing The Miami Herald to photograph the upcoming trial of a tattooed murder suspect. The suspect is accused of fatally shooting a couple in January of 2006 with an AK-47 in front of their 10-year old daughter.
Although news cameras are allowed in courtrooms under Florida law, in special cases, they can be banned. In this case, the public defender representing the murder suspect argued that his unique physical appearance – he has a tattoo of a crucifix on each cheek – might prompt jurors, or potential jurors, or someone they know to research him online. In doing so, they might find footage of A&E's First 48, a show that chronicles the cases of Miami Police homicide detectives, on which the suspect was shown laughing at photos of his victims. Because the suspect had not waived his right to an attorney at the time, the footage will not be viewed by jurors.
Representing The Miami Herald, Ponce argued that the possibility of the images of the defendant tainting the jury pool in Miami was "speculative." If a unique appearance is all that is necessary to ban the media, then the question becomes what is defined as "unique." Furthermore, the newspaper would still be able to publish a description of the defendant's tattoos, and his jail booking shot is readily available online.
Circuit Judge Daryl Trawick ruled in favor of The Herald, saying that barring cameras was an "extreme measure" and that before all jury trials, attorneys screen jurors who may know of a case through media coverage.
Ponce practices in the areas of complex civil and commercial litigation, with an emphasis on class action litigation and media law.
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