News Gathering | Press Access

Newspaper Challenging RI Judge In Federal Court For Banning Juror Contact

Judge Netti C. Vogel
Superior Court Judge Netti C. Vogel (screenshot from Providence Journal video 2012)

The Providence Journal is moving a First Amendment complaint against a Superior Court judge to federal court for declaring a ban on reporter contact with jurors after a trial.

The newspaper’s lawyers, the state Superior Court, and the judge could not reach an agreement about reporter’s access to jurors and are asking for clarification from a federal judge.

A lawyer for the paper said in a statement to The Providence Journal that the move is because of “the fundamental importance of the Constitutional rights of access, to both The Providence Journal and the public it serves. The federal district court has jurisdiction over the violation of First Amendment rights.”

The dispute began in April during a murder trial when the judge issued a bench directive that no one in the spectator section may contact the jurors.

The paper filed an emergency motion in state court when it was denied a list of names of jurors.

The Providence Journal>
May 16, 2018: Newspaper Seeking Clarification On Free Press Principles

After Jorge DePina was found guilty of murdering his 10 year old daughter, Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Netti Vogel stated, according to the court transcript, “No one, no spectator, no one in the spectator section of the courtroom, is permitted to contact my jurors.” She issued two orders, one barring all contact with jurors who convicted the man and another blocking release of the list containing their names. The Providence Journal is suing, stating that the orders “impair the communication of news and commentary on current events.” The ACLU of Rhode Island expressed concern over the judge’s orders and is expected to file a ‘friend of the court brief’.

On May 16th, Judge Vogel issued a statement that she did not seek to “hinder freedom of speech” but that “solely out of concern for the safety and protection of those jurors, immediately following the verdict I told the spectators that they must refrain from initiating contact with jurors.”

Judge Vogel statement> Providence Journal> WPRI>