A Fulton County judge issued a protective order Thursday blocking the release of evidence that prosecutors in former President Donald Trump’s Georgia 2020 election case deem “sensitive.”
Judge Scott McAfee issued the order following a Wednesday hearing on Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis office’s request for a protective order prohibiting the disclosure of discovery material, which it made after videos of four co-defendants’ interviews with prosecutors were leaked to the media earlier this week. The judge cited concerns that public disclosure of pretrial materials would cause delays in the discovery process and expose potential jurors to evidence that “may be deemed inadmissible at trial.”
“One party may believe a piece of evidence should be considered by the public at large, while another finds it prejudicial and damaging to the jury pool,” McAfee wrote. “The Court has an interest in ensuring that all parties retain their right to a fair trial before an unbiased jury, a process that could become unattainable should the public be allowed to vet every piece of unfiltered evidence months before trial.”
Co-defendant Misty Hampton’s lawyer, Jonathan Miller, admitted Wednesday to releasing videos to one media outlet, saying he believed they “helped” his client and arguing that “the public has a right to know.”
McAfee noted in his order that the discovery process is “designed to avoid unnecessary surprise at trial and level the playing field” and that the possibility of “public vetting” might tempt a party to delay disclosure. (RELATED: Fulton County District Attorney Motions To Revoke Trump Co-Defendant’s Bail Over Social Media Posts)
“Such a logistical roadblock was already demonstrated in this case when the State, in reaction to the public release of the recordings of recent proffers given by four Defendants, indicated that all subsequently produced videos would only be viewable by defense counsel in- person,” he said.
Following dust-up over release of proffer videos, Judge Scott McAfee enters limited protective order over discovery materials in Trump’s Fulton County case.
Read the order here:https://t.co/0hn507bdKt
— Anna Bower (@AnnaBower) November 16, 2023
Moreover, McAfee said the order “does not offend the First Amendment” as sealed discovery documents are “not a matter of public record.” A lawyer representing media organizations like The Associated Press and The Washington Post objected to any protective order during the hearing Wednesday.
Attorneys for Jeffrey Clark, Harrison William Prescott Floyd and Misty Hampton voiced opposition to a protective order. Defendants Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Mark Meadows, Ray Smith, Robert Cheeley, Shawn Still, Trevian Kutti, and Cathy Latham backed an order proposed by David Shafer, according to the court’s order.
The order specifies that it does not apply to “information or records that are publicly available independent of the State’s discovery productions to the defendants, information or records which the defendants or defense counsel came into possession by independent means, unrelated to the discovery process, or information or records which has been filed or received in evidence in any other court proceeding.”
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