Georgia Supreme Court hears gag order arguments in Grinstead case
On October 23, 2005, Tara Grinstead, went missing from her home in Ocilla, Georgia. She was a teacher at Irwin County High School and a beauty queen.
Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court of Georgia will hear arguments from our WMAZ lawyers on the gag-order issued in this case, which they say violates the media's First Amendment right to gather and report the news.
Here's a little history on how we got to this point.
After Grinstead was reported missing 11 years ago, the GBI conducted a massive search for answers, but the case went cold.
Last February, a break finally came when Ryan Duke was arrested and charged with her murder.
Days later, a second man, Bo Dukes, was arrested for helping conceal her body. Within a week, Irwin County Judge Melanie Cross issued a gag order barring anyone associated with the case from speaking about it.
Cross said media coverage could affect Ryan Duke's 6th amendment right to a fair trial.
In March, WMAZ, and our Atlanta station, WXIA, challenged the order, arguing that it was too broad.
The court filing said the order was an unconstitutional prior restraint on the media's right to cover the case and on people's right to speak about it.
Judge Cross "relaxed" the gag order a bit but still restricted public comment by anyone working with the prosecution or defense, court staff, and current and former police officers on the case.
In July, lawyers for WMAZ and WXIA appealed the new order to the Supreme Court of Georgia, arguing that there's no proof that publicity in the case threatened Duke's right to a fair trial.
They also argued that gag orders should only be used as a last resort , and there are less restrictive ways to protect Dukes' right to a fair trial, like moving the trial or bringing in outside jurors.
Duke's attorney, and the State, argue that the gag order ensures Duke will receive a fair trial "by preventing further pervasive and prejudicial publicity," which "outweighs the media's right to interview trial participants."
Now, the Supreme Court of Georgia will get their say.
One person who's already given their opinion is Grinstead's sister, Anita Grinstead Gattis.
This spring, she told WMAZ she wasn't "okay" with the order, saying after 11 years her family deserved information in the case.
The supreme court is expected to hear 20 minutes of arguments from each side, but it is not expected to rule on the case Tuesday.
We'll live stream the hearing beginning at 10:30 a.m. here on our website.