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Judge Attacks Media in Murder Case

July 16, 1999

SALAMANCA, N.Y. (AP) _ Linking news coverage to copycat killings and recent school shootings, a judge Friday refused to release a hearing transcript from a racially charged murder case.

Penny Lockwood Brown, a 39-year-old white woman, was raped and murdered as she jogged in a park on Mother’s Day. Sixteen-year-old Edward Kindt, an American Indian, has been charged with the attack on the mother of two.

In his order, City Court Judge William Mountain III said making the transcript of a May 17 preliminary hearing public could taint the jury pool.

He also derided the media, suggesting the reporting of ``grisly details″ might have helped trigger crimes such as the school shootings in Jonesboro, Ark., and Littleton, Colo.

``The norm in this day and age seems to be the news media circling like vultures, each hoping to be the first to feast on the gory details of a story such as this,″ Mountain wrote. ``Perhaps if the media were to refrain from dwelling on this carrion, we would have fewer ’copy-cat killers.‴

He continued, ``Perhaps, we would also be spared the attempts of disturbed children to attain their 15 minutes of fame by murdering their peers ... if the public were not endlessly bombarded by pictures and grisly details of prior senseless tragedies of the same ilk by the news media.″

Records in the case, including a statement allegedly made by Kindt to police, were sealed when the preliminary hearing was closed at the request of Kindt’s attorney, Fern Adelstein, and District Attorney Edward Sharkey.

The order to close the hearing was challenged by The Associated Press, The Buffalo News and the Salamanca Press.

Joseph Finnerty, an attorney representing the media, said the rights of all parties could be balanced without exclusion of the media.

``The public’s and press’ right of access to judicial proceedings under the First Amendment and this defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights to a fair trial can be balanced and accommodated in less restrictive ways,″ Finnerty said. ``Everyone involved in the proceedings is concerned with integrity of the system.″

He said an appeal would be considered.

The case has heightened racial tensions in Salamanca because much of town lies within the territory of the Seneca Nation of Indians, and residents pay the Senecas to live there.

Lease negotiations that wrapped up two years ago led to heated protests and evictions of some white residents who refused to sign the agreement.

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