Judge bans reporters from using phones, laptops during Madison officer’s trial

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – U.S. District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala issued an order Monday banning the media from live blogging courtroom proceedings during Eric Parker’s retrial, which is currently underway.

U.S. District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala

U.S. District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala

Haikala said in her order┬áthat her court has a rule prohibiting “broadcasting in or from the courtrooms during court proceedings.” The rule specifically bans radio broadcasting, television broadcasting, and taking photos, but she has extended the interpretation of the rule to include the use of laptops, tablets, and cellphones.

“The blogging of witness testimony poses a significant challenge to the Court’s ability to oversee a trial and enforce a sequestration order under Rule 615 of the Federal Rules of Evidence,” she said.

Rule 615 states, in part, “At a party’s request, the court must order witnesses excluded so that they cannot hear other witnesses’ testimony,” according to Haikala’s order.

She said during a sealed proceeding, witnesses who were under subpoenas had been reading the proceedings from courtroom blogs, violating her court’s order.

The media will be allowed to take handwritten notes, but nothing else.

Eric Parker is charged with violating the civil rights of Sureshbhai Patel following an encounter in a Madison neighborhood off County Line Road on February 6. His first trial in September ended in a mistrial after jurors were unable to come to a unanimous verdict.

Read the text of Judge Haikala’s order by clicking here.