Appeals court lifts media restrictions in Tensing retrial, pending hearing

Posted at 2:19 PM, May 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-26 20:28:06-04

CINCINNATI -- An appeals court has temporarily thrown out an order restricting some news media access in the Ray Tensing retrial.

WCPO and other local media outlets, including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Associated Press, WXIX-TV, WLWT-TV and WKRC-TV, filed complaints with Ohio's First District Court of Appeals against Common Pleas Judge Leslie Ghiz over rules she created for the upcoming Ray Tensing retrial.

The appeals court found on Friday that Ghiz's restrictions "are contrary to law" because she made them without holding a hearing or considering evidence.

Ghiz had said media outlets would need to sign a "waiver" agreeing they wouldn't show jurors, witnesses or victims who had a problem with being recorded. Any news outlet that didn't agree would have been banned from airing and recording what happens in Ghiz's courtroom.

Staff from all the outlets in the complaint submitted waivers, as court proceedings began before a ruling was made on their petition.

The judge also said she was barring electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets from the courtroom and entire fifth floor of the Hamilton County Courthouse during the trial.

The restrictions run afoul of rules established by the Ohio Supreme Court, as well as rulings at the state and federal level, according to the complaint. For example, a witness or victim can object to being recorded -- but, according to the complaint, a judge must hold a hearing to decide if that person has a valid reason before restricting the media.

Courts have previously recognized the First Amendment right for a news media company to use the tools they need inside a courtroom to do their job, the media outlets wrote.

"Today, all news reporters - whether they work for a newspaper, TV station or radio station - use laptops, tablets and cell phones to take notes and send emails and texts to their offices during court proceedings, and the public benefits by receiving accurate, up-to-the-minute access to court proceedings," a court filing states. "More than ever before, with today's technology, the news media serve as an effective watchdog on courtroom proceedings and as the public's eyes and ears in the courtroom."

Ghiz's rules would also have limited media access to juror selection and questionnaires, according to the media complaint.

The media outlets argued that Ghiz "abused her judicial power" and violated the First Amendment by limiting access to the juror information.

In a response to the complaint, Ghiz cited a "juror revolt" during the first Tensing trial, when they reportedly said that they were in "fear for their well-being." The media outlets argued that "revolt" was caused by "the court's failure to provide adequate notice to jurors of their right to request" a private hearing.

A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday morning. Until then, Ghiz will be unable to enforce the restrictions.

For complete trial coverage, visit