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American Newspapers Restricted By Canada’s Ban On Murder Trial Coverage

November 29, 1993

DETROIT (AP) _ At least three newspaper distributors refused to sell Sunday’s edition of The Detroit News and Free Press in Canada because of that country’s ban on coverage of a murder trial.

In Buffalo, N.Y., the newspaper editor warned that copies of Sunday’s Buffalo News would likely be confiscated at the Canadian border because of the story on Karla Homolka’s trial.

″It’ll be suicide to sell it,″ said Tim Quinn of Lake Ontario Distributors, one of the three independent Ontario-based distributors who refused to sell the News. ″Niagara Falls, Ontario, police told me they’ll be watching all night for trucks. They said they would confiscate the papers and arrest the driver.″

Ontario Justice Francis Kovacs has blocked the public and foreign media from his courtroom in St. Catharines, Ontario, under a law that allows judges to order a virtual blackout on trial coverage in an attempt to ensure a fair trial. He has restricted the facts that Canadian journalists are allowed to report on the trial.

The Detroit and Buffalo newspapers carried a Washington Post story on Homolka’s case and the upcoming murder trial of her husband, Paul Teale, 29. The story was based on interviews with people knowledgeable about what was said in court and on limited press reports.

A Canadian edition of The Buffalo News didn’t contain the story, editor Murray Light said.

″But a heckuva lot of Canadians are coming to Buffalo to buy the paper,″ he said.

Homolka, 23, was sentenced last summer to 12 years in prison on two counts of manslaughter for her role in deaths of two teen-age girls. Her husband awaits trial on first-degree murder charges in the slayings and on other charges, including the rapes of 17 other women.

Homolka has filed for divorce and is expected to testify against her husband. As part of her plea bargain, prosecutors read a long statement of facts agreed to by the defense, but the litany of rapes and tortures can’t be published until after a verdict in Teale’s case, the judge ruled.

Christina Bradford, managing editor at The Detroit News, said the case was of interest because of Detroit’s proximity to Canada. About 24,000 copies of the Sunday edition, which combines reports from Detroit’s two major newspapers, are sold each week in Ontario.

″To deprive our readers of a story to satisfy the Canadian government’s laws does not make sense,″ she said.

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