Jay C. Welch


American courts have struggled continuously with balancing the defendant's right to a fair trial with the reporter's right of freedom of the press. The courts face a most difficult challenge when confronted with a highly publicized case because they may have to exclude the public and the press from any pretrial hearings to ensure defendant's right to a fair trial under the sixth amendment. The Supreme Court of the United States considered the constitutional ramification of judicial pretrial closure orders in Gannett Co. v. DePasquale. In a five-four decision the Supreme Court held the sixth amendment's public trial guarantee did not give the press and public any right of access to pretrial suppression hearings since the public trial guarantee was for the benefit of the defendant alone. The majority in Gannett stated that the protection of defendant's right to a fair trial by avoiding prejudicial pretrial publicity outweighed the press' right of access to pretrial proceeding and, as a result, concluded that closure of a suppression hearing did not violate any first amendment right of access by the press and the public. The Gannett Court concluded that neither the sixth amendment nor the first amendment requires that the press and public be granted access to a pretrial suppression hearing.



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