Georgia Supreme Court to hear appeal of gag order in Tara Grinstead case

Tara Grinstead (13WMAZ file photo)
↓ Advertisement ↓

The Supreme Court of Georgia will hear an argument challenging the gag order in the Tara Grinstead murder case.

WMAZ and our Atlanta station, WXIA-TV, appealed the gag order to the state’s highest court.

The Georgia Supreme Court's clerk confirmed to our attorney Friday that the judges plan to hear the argument in a special setting at the University of Georgia.

Here's some background on the gag order:

↓ Advertisement ↓

An Irwin County judge, Judge Melanie Cross, issued the order on Feb. 28. That was just after authorities charged Ryan Duke in Grinstead’s murder. Cross cited extensive media coverage and said the defendant’s right to a fair trial could be in jeopardy. That order barred anyone associated with the case from speaking about it.

Several media outlets, including WMAZ, challenged that order saying it was overly broad and restricted free speech.

Grinstead’s sister, Anita Gattis, also objected to the order, saying after 11 years, the family deserved information in the case.

 

In March, Cross relaxed the gag order a bit, restricting public comment by anyone working with the prosecution or defense, court staff and current and former police officers on the case.

In July, WMAZ and WXIA appealed the order to the Supreme Court of Georgia, arguing that the modified gag order still restricts free speech. Their brief argues that the judge didn’t show clear evidence that media coverage will harm the defendant's right to a fair trial or that the gag order would serve its intended purpose, and that the judge didn’t consider less restrictive measures first.

The Georgia Supreme Court will hear the argument Oct. 24 in Athens.

Tara Grinstead is the Irwin County teacher who went missing in October 2005.

Her case was unsolved for more than 10 years, but earlier this year, the GBI charged Ryan Duke with killing her and a second man, Bo Dukes, with helping to conceal her body.

Charges against both men are still pending.