According to the AP, the anonymous comments include one calling a defense lawyer a "scum-sucking lawyer." Another said, "I could never live with myself if I were a public defender." And a third questioned how such a lawyer could "live long enough to walk to your car. A good snyper (sic) would do the job quickly, quietly and painlessly."
Judge Richard Baumgartner is unlikely to rule for the defense. "Just what power do you think I have?" he asked. It's extremely rare for a judge to impose a publishing ban and, in this case, it wouldn't do much good anyway. While these defendants will certainly have trouble getting a fair trial, website comments are a miniscule part of the publicity surrounding these killings. Have you heard them screaming about this case on talk radio? Still, the newspaper and TV station voluntarily ought to do what the lawyers are asking.
They shouldn't surrender their websites to anonymous attackers. But to do what's right would require them to monitor their comments 24/7, which might require a couple of new staffers. Instead, predictably, they've jumped onto their First Amendment soap boxes. They argue that any restriction of their websites violates the free speech rights of commenters, who go by names like Monkeybutt and Stumpy.Here at the Scene, our volume of website comments is less, so it's easier for us to keep track of them. We're not all that diligent about it, though. If we ever wind up in court over it, our lawyers probably will make the same ridiculous arguments.