Judge denies TMZ’s request for cameras at Mueller hearing
January 7, 2012
ASPEN – A judge on Friday denied a celebrity-news website’s request to have expanded media coverage at a Jan. 23 court hearing scheduled for Brooke Mueller.
In her order, Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols wrote that a live courtroom feed from TMZ “would interfere with the rights of a party to a fair trial” and “would unduly detract from the solemnity, decorum and dignity of the court.”
Nichols’ order comes after TMZ petitioned the court in December for broader access to the hearing, which would mark Mueller’s first court appearance in which she is to answer one felony charge of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and a misdemeanor assault offense. She has yet to be formally charged.
Aspen police arrested Mueller, 34, the ex-wife of actor Charlie Sheen, on Dec. 3.
Mueller’s attorneys objected to TMZ’s request, arguing in a court filing that a camera in the courtroom would “unduly detract from the solemnity, decorum and dignity of this court and the proceedings.”
Aspen defense attorney Richard Cummins also contended that there is “more than a reasonable likelihood that expanded media coverage would interfere with Ms. Mueller’s right to a fair trial … and create adverse effects greater than those caused by traditional media coverage.”
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Nichols agreed, also offering that TMZ’s expanded media coverage would add “an additional supervision and responsibility for the court and its staff. This added responsibility takes time and resources away from the time and resources needed to provide fair and dignified proceedings for the parties to this case as well as all other parties who must appear on January 23, 2012.”
Mueller is among dozens of criminal defendants who are scheduled to appear in court Jan. 23.
The judge added that “the Pitkin County Courthouse is an old courthouse with limited space” and “expanded media coverage on a docket day will make it significantly more difficult to maintain the appropriate decorum in the courtroom and more difficult to ensure that all persons, including Ms. Mueller, are treated with dignity and fairly.”
In Colorado, expanded media coverage is open to the discretion of the judge.
When Sheen appeared in Pitkin County District Court over the course of 2010 for his domestic-violence case involving Mueller, Judge James Boyd issued a courtroom decorum that prohibited cell phones, cameras, laptop computers and other electronic devices in the courtroom during the proceedings. Attendants of courtroom proceedings for Sheen, who was arrested on Christmas Day in 2009, were screened before entering.
Nichols has not issued a decorum order for the Mueller case.