Crime in Writing True Crime (Continued)
sources became jittery and agonized over their decisions to talk.
When they did speak, they spoke only on condition of anonymity,
which caused them to panic that I wouldnt be another
Vanessa Leggett and that I wouldnt protect their identities.
So, one minute I had to reassure them that I was another
Vanessa and I would go to jail to protect them. The next
minute I had to reassure them that I wasnt another
Vanessa, i.e., allegedly unpublished.
of this gag order-inspired need for anonymity eventually affected
my ability to tell the complete, full and truthful story in the
detail I felt it needed. Despite the fact that I often had two to
four sources confirming critical facts, since all of those sources
were anonymous, St. Martins attorney wouldnt allow me
to use those rock solid facts. He understandably feared that no
source would stand up in court to back me.
August 4, 2001, the Fourteenth Court of Appeals denied the
Chronicles request to throw out the gag order in the
case against Andrea Yates. In their opinion, written by Justice
Charles W. Seymore, the court referred to the crime as "an
undeniably tragic episode" that resulted in a "maelstrom
of media attention."
court stated that Judge Hill "initially was not inclined
to grant a gag order." Instead, she "admonished counsel
for both sides that she intended to try the case in court and
not in the press. However, the parties evidently did not heed
wrote that the Houston Chronicle had been present during
the gag order hearing and had asked to be heard. "Judge
Hill noted, however, that the Houston Chronicle was not a party
to the criminal proceedings or to the gag order, and declined
to entertain its objections at that particular time, stating
she would revisit with counsel after the hearing."
Court of Appeals ultimately decided that Hills gag order
did not infringe upon the medias First Amendment rights
of freedom of the press. Indeed, Seymore cited a Virgina case
as proof: "The Court described that right, however, as
only a right to sit, listen, watch and report. The press has
no right to information about a trial superior to that of the
general public." And, in citing a case against Warner Communications,
Seymore additionally wrote, "In short, the medias
right to gather information during a criminal trial is no more
than a right to attend the trial and report on their observations."
8, 2001, Andrea Yates walked into the 230th District
Court for her arraignment. Her plea of not guilty by reason of insanity
was quickly entered. Less quickly, prosecutors and defense attorneys
carped about leaks to the press, as the defense desperately tried
to slip in statements rebutting alleged prosecutorial leaks. Judge
Hill silenced the attorneys, making it clear she wasnt going
to tolerate any attempts to try the case in the press. The arraignment
ended and a bailiff ordered the press out of the courtroom.
the day before, Judge Belinda Hill had issued an order instructing
all "spectators and media representatives" to "immediately
leave courtroom 7-7 and all cameras shall be removed as soon
as possible," after the proceedings were concluded. The
judges order also demanded that the pool video camera
not record any soundnothing the judge or attorneys
further stated, "Media personnel outside the courtroom
shall not create distractions and shall avoid restricting movement
of persons passing through the halls and/or doors to the courtroom."
person who violated the order was subject to contempt and expulsion
from the courtroom. And "all persons employed by a media
organization" were "presumed to have notice"
of the order, whether they had seen it or not. 2
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