DELPHI, Ind. — Nicholas McLeland did his talking in court. After the hearing of murder suspect Richard Allen, charged in the Delphi killings of Abby Williams and Libby German, the Carroll County Prosecutor declined to speak to dozens of reporters on hand.
And if McLeland gets his way, there will be a large group of people barred from speaking publicly about the case. A motion for a gag order has been filed. McLeland wants Allen, all attorneys connected to the case, law enforcement, court staff, the coroner and even family members prohibited from making “extra-judicial statements by means of public communication.”
Judge Fran Gull has not yet ruled on the motion that was filed after Tuesday’s hearing.
If you’re wondering if a judge can order a large group of people into silence about a criminal case, IU law school professor Judy Madiera assures you it can happen.
“They’re there in a lot of murder cases, a lot of high-profile cases and they’re really there to require individuals to refrain from making public comment. We’re typically talking about attorneys, witnesses, eventually jurors, and the goal is really to restrict what information is available to media outlets,” explained Madiera.
There is a gag order in place for the upcoming murder trial of Phillip Lee, accused of killing Seara Burton.
State law also provides judge latitude to craft a gag order narrowly or broadly, to fit the goal of making sure the defendant can get a fair trial.
At our request, Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton reviewed McLeland’s gag order motion. Eaton said he believed McLeland was doing his job, “There’s rules that apply to lawyers.”
And very specific rules for prosecutors. The Indiana Code of Professional Conduct requires prosecutors “exercise reasonable care to prevent investigators, law enforcement personnel, employees or other persons” from making statements that may jeopardize the defendant’s right to a fair trial.
For Eaton, the rule means, “Mr. Prosecutor are you going to proceed appropriately and try your case in the courtroom and not the media… but you have a responsibility to see that everyone else follows that, too.”
A prosecutor failing to obey the conduct rules can face professional discipline.