Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Motion to Close John Freshwater Hearing—Jury May Be Influenced By Media Coverage

John Freshwater’s attorney is requesting that the administrative hearing be closed to the public and the media. In the motioned submitted Tuesday, attorney R. Kelly Hamilton expresses concern that the eventual jurors for the upcoming federal trial may be influenced by media coverage of the hearing:

“Upon each hearing date multiple media sources have attended the hearing and made report in various news outlets. The change in circumstances is presented in that potential jury members could be exposed to media reports that may unduly influence, create or lead to bias, detected or undetected through voir dire. The cognitive influences of primacy and recency potentially created by media reports could jeopardize John Freshwater’s position in the federal trial as eventual jurors may be influenced or biased as a result of the media reports emanating from the remaining hearing testimony to be taken in this matter. An example of such influence against John Freshwater is included as Exhibit A wherein John Freshwater received an unsolicited letter of opinion from a person not familiar to John Freshwater. Media attention in this matter has been constant and at this juncture the teacher, John Freshwater, may be further unduly harmed by uninformed recipients of journalism that is designed to sell news rather than accurately present a fair and balanced report.” (Emphasis added.)

In addition to concern about media influence on jurors, Hamilton stated that other reasons for closing the hearing are: “Articulated witness apprehension.” “The prospect of revealing the anonymous source identity.”

(Click here to read the motion.)

The hearing is set to resume on April 29, according to the Mount Vernon News. The hearing will be taking place at the Mount Vernon City Schools Central Office at 300 Newark Road.

UPDATE 4-28-10 at 4:20 p.m.:

The hearing scheduled to resume on Thursday will be open to the public. Referee R. Lee Shepherd issued his decision Wednesday on the request to close the hearing.

“There being no statutory rights to close (make private) a contract termination hearing once a public hearing has been requested, the teacher’s motion is denied,” Shepherd stated.

(Click here to view a copy of the decision.)

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