Judge Juan Merchan Gags Journalists at Trump's Hush Money Trial

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Judge Juan Merchan is now trying to gag members of the public in an effort to stop legitimate journalists from accurately reporting what they observe in the courtroom during Donald Trump's hush money trial. This comes after journalists present in the gallery reported details of potential jurors including their physical appearance, educational background, occupation, and employment history. All that information is fair game when disclosed in a public place. A courtroom is no different which is why some journalists are considering filing First Amendment challenges to Judge Merchan's directive.


There are more "legitimate" ways to stop the press from accurately reporting certain details but gagging them as if they're the defendant is not the answer. Typically when security concerns for trial participants or others arise in a criminal trial the "appropriate" way to stop the public from learning what the press sees is to kick everyone out of the gallery during some parts of the proceedings. This author had a friend a little over a decade ago who experienced similar issues during his trial but despite his judge's blatant violations of his rights, even that judge didn't have the audacity to tell the press what not to say. My friend's case was a terrorism case involving Al-Qaeda, some of the evidence was classified, and some of the witnesses were undercover FBI agents involved in ongoing operations. The court wanted to protect classified information including the identities of the FBI agents, so U.S. District Judge Garr M. King ordered the public out of the courtroom whenever classified information was discussed and allowed the FBI agents to testify using pseudonyms while wearing light disguises. Not even my friend's lawyers were allowed to know who the agents really were.

I've always felt that what happened to my friend was a violation of his Sixth Amendment right to confront his accusers and the people's right to observe criminal trials. However, what happened to my friend was not nearly as threatening to the rights of the public as what Judge Merchan is trying to do. Judge Merchan could have simply ordered the courtroom closed to the public during jury selection, erected a barrier shielding jurors from public view, or allowed jurors to wear disguises. He has no right whatsoever to tell the press not to report what they see.


I think one thing that makes this a trigger for me is my efforts to act like a journalist during a trial in my area. Another friend of mine was on trial for murder and insisted the press was not covering his case accurately, so when his trial came around I popped in from time to time. It turned out he was telling the truth and the government did not like me posting about that while the media continued to push the government's false narrative. At one point my federal probation officer told me my coverage came dangerously close to constituting a probation violation on the grounds of associating with a known felon. This came after we made eye contact and he acknowledged me. One day he waited for the jury to leave, turned to me, and told me to come back after the recess to see some "good stuff." I reported things accurately as I observed them. Had the judge in that case tried to stop me from doing so I would not have legitimized such an effort with my cooperation.


When anyone goes to prison they end up with friends that have all sorts of charges including murder and terrorism related stuff. Any ex-con that says otherwise is either lying or completely anti-social. The latter are the types of people that end up in protective custody by themselves all the time.


I was debating whether to post Merchan's information on this website and while I'm not to the point of posting his full address, I feel like things are getting there. I certainly won't hesitate to do so if he sanctions a journalist for reporting what they see in court in any way. Likewise I won't tolerate punishing a defendant for exercising free speech because if Trump can be jailed for posting online about trial participants his case could be used to justify jailing me if I ever catch another case and speak out against those involved. As someone not in New York he no claim of authority over me, so I am free to post what I please about him.

Previous straws include placing a gag order on Trump in an effort to stop him from doing things I liked doing when I was a defendant. Things like posting information about government employees and the snitches that aid them. That can be an extremely effective way to deter the government from overreaching into your life. The ability to do that is under attack now largely by professional "victims" calling themselves "activists" whose biggest weapon is crying about how scared they claim to be and begging a court for help (ex: "I'm so terrified, please [insert request]"). To those types I say, "grow a pair or at least act like you have some balls."


According to public records, Juan Manuel Merchan is a 61 year old resident of Freeport, New York. He is a registered Democrat with no criminal record.


Judge Juan Merchan has no right to tell the public what they can or cannot say. The ability of defendants to publicly criticize everyone involved in their cases strikes at the core of the First Amendment and violating that right cannot be tolerated.

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