713 F.2d 1114 (5th Cir. 1983), 83-1095, United States v. Harrelson

Docket Nº:83-1095, 83-1107.
Citation:713 F.2d 1114
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Charles V. HARRELSON, et al., Defendants, v. EL PASO TIMES, INC., et al., Movants-Appellants. In re EL PASO TIMES, INC., the Associated Press and Patrick Wier, Petitioners.
Case Date:September 06, 1983
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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Page 1114

713 F.2d 1114 (5th Cir. 1983)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Charles V. HARRELSON, et al., Defendants,

v.

EL PASO TIMES, INC., et al., Movants-Appellants.

In re EL PASO TIMES, INC., the Associated Press and Patrick

Wier, Petitioners.

Nos. 83-1095, 83-1107.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

September 6, 1983

Page 1115

Scott, Hulse, Marshall, Feuille, Finger & Thurmond, Richard Munzinger, El Paso, Tex., for movants-appellants and petitioners.

Sidney Powell, Asst. U.S. Atty., San Antonio, Tex., for plaintiff-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.

On Application for Writ of Mandamus to the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.

Before THORNBERRY, GEE, and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

GEE, Circuit Judge:

At issue on this appeal is the constitutional validity of two restrictions on post-verdict interviews with jurors by the press: that forbidding repeated importunings for interviews and that forbidding inquiry into specific votes by other jurors. We uphold both.

Facts and Procedural History

On December 14, 1982, a jury found Charles V. Harrelson, Elizabeth Chagra and Jo Ann Harrelson guilty of various acts and conspiracies with regard to the May 1979 murder of the Honorable John H. Wood, Jr., United States District Judge. 1 As the district court was discharging the jurors following their verdict, it admonished that its Local Court Rule 500-2 was applicable and that all persons were prohibited from approaching, questioning, or interviewing any juror, or his relatives, friends, or associates, concerning the jury's deliberations, except with leave of court granted upon good cause shown. Rule 500-2 provides:

No ... attorney or any party to an action or any other ... person shall himself or through any investigator or other person acting for him interview, examine or question any juror, relative, friend or associate thereof either during the pendency of the trial or with respect to the deliberations or verdict of the jury in any action, except on leave of court granted upon good cause shown.

After the jury's verdict, appellants filed a Motion of Non-Parties to Interview Jurors requesting that the district court vacate its intended enforcement of Rule 500-2 as an unconstitutional restraint on their freedoms of speech and press. Appellants requested that they be permitted to interview the discharged jurors "without restriction of any sort whatsoever." On December 21, 1982, the district court entered its Memorandum Opinion and Order denying the Motion of Non-Parties to Interview Jurors. The district court refused to accept appellants' characterization of Rule 500-2 as a "prior restraint" carrying a heavy presumption against its constitutional validity, viewing it instead as only a "restraint on access, but not as a prior restraint on speech, expression or publication." Although the district court recognized that Rule 500-2 had an "incidental effect on news gathering," it held that the Rule served the interest of justice since it preserved the confidentiality of jury deliberations. In response to the district court's order, appellants filed an Application for Writ of Mandamus (No. 82-1729) with this court seeking a writ directing the district court to vacate its Order enforcing Rule 500-2. The application was denied.

On December 30, 1982, this court decided In re The Express-News Corporation, 695 F.2d 807 (5th Cir.1982), holding that Rule 500-2, and the district court's order enforcing it, were unconstitutional as applied to post-verdict interviews sought to be conducted with discharged jurors by the Express-News Corporation in an unrelated criminal case.

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