District Attorney email reveals attempt to limit media coverage - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

District Attorney email reveals attempt to limit media coverage in death penalty case

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District Attorney Buzz Franklin wanted to limit media attention in a death penalty case by asking the court administrator to alter the circuit's public website calendar, according to an email obtained to by Channel 3 Eyewitness News.

The email from Franklin was sent to Chief Court Administrator Keith Bates in regards to a motion hearing set for April 24 in the Catherine Goins death penalty case. Judge Ralph Van Pelt entered the email into court record Thursday during a hearing in which Channel 3 fought for camera access in the case.

“Due to media attention, the Capital Public Defender's Office agreed that I would delay the filing of the order setting the hearing to near in time to the hearing to cut down on media attention,” Franklin wrote in March 25 email that also included Assistant District Attorney Alan Norton.

“However a local media outlet filed a request for cameras at the hearing. We could not figure out how they knew,” the email continued.

Franklin then asks that in the future if the court administrator has to put dates on the website, which is open to the public, that the subject of the hearings be made “more generic” by not naming the defendant.

Van Pelt issued an order saying no further emails like the one Franklin sent should be sent to the court administrator concerning the case. Instead, he said emails should be sent to the court's secretary and opposing counsel should be copied.

Channel 3 and the station's attorney were in the courtroom when the email was entered into the record. The purpose of Thursday's hearing was to hear arguments on whether or not television cameras would be allowed in Friday's hearing, after the attorneys representing Goins objected to television cameras being a part of pre-trial hearings. Judge Van Pelt granted camera access to Friday's hearing. He also agreed to allow the defendant in the case, Catherine Goins, who is currently in custody, to wear street clothes on Friday while the cameras are present.

Goins, 37, is accused of killing Natalia Roberts and attempting to take her newborn baby as her own. The case heads back to court tomorrow. WRCB and WTVC joined together in this matter to argue on behalf of media coverage.
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