Commonwealth's Attorney pushes for gag order in Alexis Murphy tr - WSFX - FOX Wilmington, NC

Commonwealth's Attorney pushes for gag order in Alexis Murphy trial

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

The Nelson County Commonwealth's Attorney has filed a motion for a gag order in the upcoming abduction trial for Alexis Murphy. Commonwealth's Attorney Anthony Martin says it's to stop people involved in the case from talking to the media, and jeopardizing the trial.

Randy Allen Taylor is charged with abducting Murphy, but the 17-year-old girl still hasn't been found since disappearing in August.

Martin fears the intense media coverage could affect the selection of a fair jury, possibly having the trial moved out of Nelson County, or even future claims of a mistrial.

"We've got to balance the First Amendment versus too much pretrial publicity. We sort of have to weigh those two things," said Martin.

Martin says he's never had to file a gag order before, but Murphy's case is different.

"It's been one of the biggest cases in Nelson County in a long time," continued Martin.

Martin is even concerned about the media linking Murphy's case with the recent discovery of teenager Jamisha Gilbert's body.

"I'm basically just trying to protect my case," explained Martin.

However, some legal experts say a gag order wouldn't be effective in much of anything, but keeping information away from the public."

Nbc12 legal analyst Steve Benjamin says gag orders can only prevent parties to a case- attorneys and the defendant- from publicly speaking. Benjamin says witnesses and family members have freedom of speech.

"With a gag order, people are still free to discuss the case, and they will. It's just that the people discussing it are the ones that have the least informed knowledge about what the case is really about....and then the attorneys are prohibited from correcting whatever might be said," explained Benjamin.

Benjamin says the public also has a right to a fair trial, and that's accomplished through transparency.

Meanwhile, Murphy's aunt Trina Murphy, says her family supports any measure in trying Taylor.

"We're going to be in support of whatever we need to do to make sure that Randy Allen Taylor is prosecuted for my niece's abduction," said Murphy.

A judge will rule on the motion Wednesday morning. Cameras have already been banned from the courtroom during trial.

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