Hearing on gag order in Tara Grinstead murder case

Judge Melanie Cross issued the gag order in the case

Judge Melanie Cross issued the gag order in the case

Her disappearance went unexplained for more than a decade until the Georgia Bureau of Investigation last month announced it had arrested 33-year-old Ryan Alexander Duke on charges that he killed the former teacher at Irwin County High School.

A superior court judge declined to make an immediate ruling Thursday after hearing opposing arguments on whether a gag order in the Tara Grinstead murder case should remain in place or be overturned. "We just want to know what happened to Tara", said Strickland, who hopes the gag order will be lifted or at least revised.

A second suspect, Bo Dukes, was arrested a week later.

Cross said she would review briefs from the various lawyers and rule on the case within a week.

The media's attorneys also said because the gag order is so broad, it infringes on the First Amendments right to free press, hinders the media's ability to report on the story, and stifles the public's desire to learn about a case of high interest. "Just because there's publicity, doesn't mean that automatically prejudices the community", said attorney S. Derek Bauer, who was hired by television stations and newspapers in Atlanta and Macon.

Attorney Leslie Gaither, representing the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, WSB and the Associated Press, noted that a court clerk has cited the gag order in refusing to open court records in the case.

John Mobley, a public defender representing Duke, initially requested the gag order.

Two weeks ago, Cross ordered investigators, lawyers and possible witnesses not to comment publicly on the case. A week after Duke's was charged with murder, the GBI charged Duke's high school friend, Bo Dukes, with helping Duke destroy and discard Grinstead's remains.

On Thursday, Mobley argued that the order was necessary to ensure a fair trial for his client. He added that because the gag order was not against the media itself, it did not violate any constitutional rights. He argued that media coverage has been "constant and pervasive".

The judge issued her gag order soon thereafter.

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