A Solano County judge is being asked next week to decide how much the community can know about a high-profile homicide case as it makes its way through the courts.
Lawyers representing 32-year-old Anthony L. Jones, the man accused of kidnapping, raping and killing 13-year-old Genelle Renee Conway-Allen of Suisun City, are asking a Solano County judge to bar electronic media from further court proceedings, and want the judge to seal all court records in the case.
By way of background, Conway-Allen’s naked body was found early Feb. 1 at Allan Witt Park. Jones was arrested a week later and is being held without bail.
The defense team’s motion uses language that leaves the door open to bar the media – and potentially the public – from further proceedings in the case, although we suspect that is not the purpose of the requests.
The defense team suggests, based solely on speculation, that continued coverage of legal proceedings in the case – something that’s guaranteed by the First Amendment – will jeopardize the ability of their client to have a fair trial – something that’s guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.
Continued coverage, the argument goes, will taint the pool of potential jurors countywide. Coverage of the case to date has already divided the community along racial lines (Jones is black and Conway-Allen was white), the lawyers maintain, and will continue to do so if their request is not granted.
They offer nothing to support either claim.
Jim Ewert, general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, said the defense team is “certainly not giving the residents of Solano County a whole lot of credit for being able to draw their own conclusions” when considering not only news related to the case but also evidence presented at trial.
One word comes to mind should the worst happen: chilling. Barring electronic coverage of further proceedings, including still photography, amounts to much the same.
Judge E. Bradley Nelson will hear arguments Wednesday. He is well-versed in media law, having represented area newspapers as an attorney prior to his tenure on the Solano County bench.
There are less-restrictive means to achieve the goals of both the First and Sixth amendments as they relate to the Jones prosecution. We have confidence that Judge Nelson will find a way to accommodate both.