Lawyers for accused serial killer Paul Durousseau want a judge to order the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville to remove Internet material about their client and stop publishing reports based on public records about the slayings. The Duval County Public Defender’s Office says publicity about the case is hurting his chances for a fair trial. The former cab driver is charged with six counts of first-degree murder in Jacksonville and one in Georgia.
Florida First Amendment lawyers called the motion extraordinary. Times-Union Editor Pat Yack said the newspaper will vigorously fight it. Circuit Judge John Skinner is considering the case.
The Times-Union detailed the case against him in front-page stories last week based largely on investigative records obtained from prosecutors. Florida’s open records law provides that those materials become public once they are provided to the defense. Assistant Public Defender Ann Finnell said her office and the court should have been notified by the Times-Union and the State Attorney’s Office before the records were released. Because there was no such notification, the defense argues, the Times-Union shouldn’t have the materials and should be precluded from publishing any more reports based on the materials. Reports on jacksonville.com, the newspaper’s Internet site, also should be removed, Finnell argued.
“They can’t do that,” said Barbara Petersen of the First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee. “It’s just bizarre. … What they’re basically asking the judge to do is violate both the United States Constitution and the Florida Constitution.”