Q&A: Press cleared from courtroom

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From the South Bend Tribune:

Q: I have been covering a murder trial this week. This morning before the jury was brought in but after the courtroom was full with spectators and the defendant, the judge asked all of us to leave so she could discuss something with the attorneys. I asked if the press could stay and she said no. Is that allowed under Indiana law, or could I have insisted on staying?

A: I suggest you ask the judge why IC 5-14-2 didn’t apply when she or he decided to clear the court during a criminal proceeding.

IC 5-14-2-3 says “No court may order the exclusion of the general public from any criminal proceeding or part of a criminal proceeding unless it first affords the parties and the general public a meaningful opportunity to be heard on the issue of any proposed exclusion.”

The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled that trial court judge’s have an “inherent” power that has been allowed to circumvent the above statute. But not knowing the reason for the exclusion, I can’t say whether there would be a basis to claim the “inherent” power as a legitimate reason why you couldn’t hear the dialogue between the attorneys and judge.

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