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Ohio Court Sides With Media, Lifts Gag Order

(CN) - The Ohio Supreme Court overturned a gag order that prevented the Toledo media from reporting on one defendant's trial until the jury was impaneled on a second defendant's trial.

Jayme Schwenkmeyer and her boyfriend, David Knepley, were charged with child endangering and manslaughter in the death of Schwenkmeyer's child.

Henry County Court Judge Keith Muehlfeld ordered separate trials and imposed a gag order on the media from reporting on Schwenkmeyer's trial until the jury was seated for Knepley's trial, which began one week later.

Muehlfeld said he took this action to prevent the tainting of the jury pool in Knepley's trial.

The Ohio Supreme Court, in a per-curiam decision, granted the Toledo Blade a writ of prohibition to override the gag order.

"Judge Muehlfeld's analysis proceeded from the erroneous premise that a criminal defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial should be accorded priority over the media's constitutional rights of free speech and press," the justices wrote.

"The judge did not rely on any evidence that a continuance might minimize any prejudicial pretrial publicity resulting from press reports about the Schwenkmeyer trial," they added, lifting the gag order.

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