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Archive for Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Judge orders Topeka newspaper to reveal name of commenter

October 31, 2012

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— A northeast Kansas newspaper has been ordered to identify a person who posted a comment on its website about a story on a murder trial for which that commenter was serving as a juror.

Shawnee County District Judge Steven Ebberts last week denied a request by The Topeka Capital-Journal to quash a district attorney's subpoena seeking the name, address and Internet Protocol address of a poster who goes by the pseudonym "BePrepared."

That person is believed to have been a juror in the first-degree murder trial of Anceo D. Stovall, 27, who was being tried on 11 charges that included the shooting death of Natalie Gibson and the wounding of her partner, Lori Allison, on July 21, 2011, during a robbery.

The Capital-Journal reported that court records indicate BePrepared accessed a news story posted July 19 while the person and other jurors were deliberating Stovall's fate two days later.

After a four-week trial and three days of deliberations, the jury convicted Stovall on July 24 of aggravated robbery, found him not guilty of the burglary of a Jeep, and was unable to reach verdicts on nine other charges, including murder.

District Attorney Chad Taylor said Stovall would be tried again on those other charges.

Stovall's attorney, Jonathan Phelps, said BePrepared posted at 1:45 p.m. July 21: "Trust me that's all they got in their little world, as you know, I have been there. Remember the pukes names they will do it for ever." Phelps filed a motion seeking a new trial, saying the online posting constitutes juror misconduct and hindered Stovall's right to a fair trial.

At a hearing Sept. 6, a man believed to be BePrepared asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked whether he was a juror in Stovall's trial, whether he made posts on CJOnline, and whether he posted under the name BePrepared.

While the man's name was reported by the newspaper in coverage of the Sept. 6 hearing, The Associated Press isn't naming him because he has not been charged with a crime. Ebberts' decision noted that interference with the judicial process is a felony.

The judge said the poster's identity was relevant to an investigation of criminal misconduct during the trial. He wrote that the prosecutor's office has claimed that without the information "a miscarriage of justice" would result.

He also agreed that the prosecutor's office couldn't reasonably obtain the poster's identity through any means other than CJOnline.

Mike Merriam, the newspaper's attorney, said The Capital-Journal would not appeal Ebberts' decision.

"This was not unexpected," he said. "It's disappointing, but I understand his reasoning."

A motion for a retrial was set for Thursday afternoon.

Comments

Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 8 months ago

That it is. It makes sense that a right to privacy would end if you are in violation of the law. Journalists usually are willing to go to jail to protect their source whenever something really huge is involved.
I would think it would be impossible to stop this if it is the kind of trial where jurors go home at night. Then someone would have to be monitoring home Internet use, or follow them around to see what they are up to outside the house during the trial.
What was the comment and when did he make it? What was the impact on the result of the trial?

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jafs 1 year, 8 months ago

The comment and when it was made are in the story.

Whether or not it had an impact on the outcome, and what that might be aren't clear to me.

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Gecko 1 year, 8 months ago

PHELPS. Digging pretty DEEP there into a wholly unrelated comment by BePrepared, in defense of an animal who murdered a Lesbian and wounded another Lesbian.

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fiddleback 1 year, 8 months ago

Yep, that's probably exactly why Phelps took the case. To him, Stovall did little more than squash a bug...

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Joe Hyde 1 year, 8 months ago

I think a lot of good would come from it, if all online newspapers discontinued letting people hide their identity behind anonymous "handles" and insisted on everyone using their real name when posting comments.

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Brock Masters 1 year, 8 months ago

I guess if Joe had his way we wouldn't have the federalist papers.

Anonymity does allow trolling, but the trolling is offset by the free discussion it allows. Maybe Joe wants Brownback to know who said those hateful things about him so he can retaliate like he did that little girl that said he blowsalot?

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Liberty275 1 year, 8 months ago

Prove you are Joe Hyde. Until you prove it, Joe Hyde is no different than Liberty275 other than it shows your lack of imagination. "Go Hide" would have been better.

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Joe Hyde 1 year, 8 months ago

I've already proven it to the Lawrence Journal-World by means of conforming to their online commentor registration method. Your use of "Liberty275" as a way of concealing your identity from everyone reading these postings only shows your lack of courage.

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Liberty275 1 year, 8 months ago

" A northeast Kansas newspaper has been ordered to identify a person who posted a comment on its website"

This is interesting for a few reasons. All the website can provide is the IP address used and info used to open the account. That doesn't really narrow it down. Several computers can share an IP address. All the information used to register can be fictitious, outside of the need for an email address. Passwords can be saved, so logging in is easier. What if by chance, the man's wife or other partner sat down and replied using his saved ID? IP addresses and passwords don't identify people.

This could be a little sticky.

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