MN Journalists Lose Seats In Crowded Courtroom


A Minneapolis reporter challenged a judge when she was shooed out of a crowded courtroom while trying to cover a murder trial, reports Only three of the 33 seats in the Hennepin County courtroom were reserved for the media, and two journalists, WCCO-TV's Esme Murphy and Northwest Community Television's Mike Johnson, were told to leave by the prosecutors' victim's advocate. The journalists say the action, backed up by Judge Janet Poston, was unprecedented in their experience.

A furious Murphy, who later blogged about the dispute, risked a contempt citation by “inappropriately” complaining to the judge in open court, a court spokeswoman asserts. (Reporters who witnessed the exchange said Murphy was displomatic.) The trial was moved to a bigger courtroom the following day, and all journalists were accommodated. But reporters say the dustup was not an isolated incident. “It’s an ongoing problem,” says the Star Tribune's Rochelle Olson, who covered the first-day proceedings. “Some judges set aside seats for media, some don’t. () I do think, in general, judges need to do a better job accommodating the media. The media is there as a proxy for the public, not just for kicks.”

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