Judges tighten restrictions

By Ann Weaver and Nolan Clay Published: April 5, 2006
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CHANDLER - The judges in the Kelsey Smith-Briggs case have imposed strict guidelines on spectators and the media, including a ban on buttons in the courtroom.

Other restrictions include no cameras and weapons in the courthouse and no cell phones or interviews in the courtroom.

The judges ordered no one to contact jurors, even after any trials are over.

Witnesses cannot be photographed, without their permission, the judges ordered.

"I realize it's a fine line, because we have several competing rights," said Special Judge Dawson Engle. "Among them are a defendant's right to a fair trial, freedom of the press, assuring the protection of jurors and witnesses and the public's right to access the courthouse without being hindered by hallways jammed with cameras."

Kelsey, 2, died Oct. 11, allegedly after her stepfather struck her at their home near Meeker.

The stepfather, Michael Lee Porter, 26, is charged with first-degree murder.

Her pregnant mother, Raye Dawn Smith, 26, is charged with enabling child abuse and child neglect.

Most of the restrictions -- by Engle and District Judge Paul Vassar -- are not unusual for high-profile cases.

However, Mark Thomas, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association, said some were overly broad and "a bad precedent that needs to be stopped immediately."

He pointed specifically to the ban on contacting jurors after the case is over.

Engle said the judges will consider requests to loosen the media restrictions.


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