A judge Wednesday ordered parties involved in the Randy Taylor case to keep quiet. Taylor is the Nelson County man charged with abducting Alexis Murphy, though Murphy has not yet been found.
Commonwealth's Attorney Anthony Martin asked the judge for a "gag order," citing extensive media coverage of the case and the increasing coverage of the case of a missing Lynchburg teenager.
The judge's order issued after a hearing Wednesday morning stopped short of everything Martin asked for. It did, however, order lawyers involved in the case and their employees, law enforcement officers and court employees to not release any information in certain categories:
- Character or reputation of the accused
- Existence of a confession
- Identity or testimony of any witness
- Evidence collected
- Test results
- Property seized
- Existence of any plea agreement
- Opinion of guilt or innocence of the accused
WDBJ7 reached out to several attorneys Wednesday, who said orders of this type are rare. Ultimatley, most believe the judge's decision is a good idea that will protect the judicial process.
"I can only recall one time where something like this was issued, but I think that it's appropriate," said Joey Sanzone, a Lynchburg attorney who believes a partial gag order will protect jurors from learning too much before the trial begins.
"It makes the trial fair, because the evidence that the jury hears comes from the courtroom, not from some unnamed and perhaps incorrect source," Sanzone said.
Judge Michael Gamble issued the order and said he was careful to narrowly tailor his ruling, because the Supreme Court has overturned broader "gag orders" in the past. He said the order was not directed at media coverage.
"The defendant has a sixth amendment right to trial by an impartial or untainted jury," said Liberty University law professor Joesph Martins, adding that most gag orders are considered unconstitutional, unless they are proven to be absolutely necessary to ensure a fair trail.
In terms of media coverage, Martins does not believe the order issued Wednesday will take away from what the public might have otherwise learned.
"I don't think this is going to change very much, because the law enforcement and attorneys aren't going to talk about the case very much anyway."
The judge's order will remain in effect until the conclusion of Taylor's trial, which is currently scheduled to begin February 3.
Taylor's trial on the abduction charge is scheduled to begin February 3rd. Murphy was last seen August 3 at a gas station in Lovingston.