Pointing to lessons learned from the livestreaming of a gruesome double homicide trial in January, a Dane County judge on Thursday prohibited news organizations from livestreaming what is likely to be another gruesome double homicide trial beginning next week.
And in a highly unusual move, Dane Circuit Judge Ellen Berz prohibited any video or audio recording of the trial at all — something neither defense or prosecution attorneys had asked for.
Berz’ 26-page order references case law and various local, state and federal courthouse rules giving her the power to restrict media coverage in arguing that a livestream of the trial of 20-year-old Khari Sanford could hurt his ability to get a fair trial while subjecting witnesses and attorneys to the kind of online harassment seen in the earlier case.
The “running public commentaries” that aired with the livestream of the January trial of Chandler Halderson “were more akin to the trash talk one would expect at a World Wrestling Federation bout than at a solemn, dignified courtroom trial,” she writes.
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Halderson, 24, was convicted after a nine-day trial of killing and dismembering his parents, then trying to burn their body parts in the family fireplace before dumping them around southern Wisconsin. Sanford has been charged with the execution-style slaying of his former girlfriend’s parents in March 2020.
Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, said Berz’s decision “cuts against decades of practice and precedent.” His group had joined local broadcasters and their industry groups in petitioning the court to allow a livestream of Sanford’s trial.
“The public has a right to see what happens in our court system, including how the elected judge in this case conducts herself,” Lueders said. “Her decision is openly hostile to the …….