In the run-up to the Casey Anthony trial, which ended in the summer of 2011 with Anthony's acquittal on charges that she killed her young daughter but a conviction for misleading police, a Florida appellate panel struck down a court-ordered confidentiality agreement that would have required the media to keep the location of jury selection a secret.
In the weeks before the jury was seated, the trial judge on his own initiative implemented a confidentiality agreement that conditioned the early release of the location of those proceedings on the media's agreement to embargo reporting the location before selection began. Citing the defendant's right to a fair and impartial jury, the trial court implemented the agreement to prevent what he feared would be the "inundation" of the jury selection venue and to "get a set number of individuals into a jury room and instruct them about not reading, watching, or listening to any news accounts prior to their exposure to intensive pretrial media coverage."
The confidentiality agreement provided that only those press organizations that signed it would receive early notice of where the jury selection proceedings would be held. In return, those press agencies were prohibited from publishing that information until jury selection.
A group of news organizations moved the trial court to reconsider implementation of the agreement, arguing that it impermissibly restricted access to an open judicial proceeding and that it imposed an unlawful prior restraint. The trial court denied the motion, citing the extensive media coverage and holding that the defendant's Sixth Amendment rights must take precedence over the First Amendment rights of the media. The next day, several of the news organizations sought appellate review.
In striking down the confidentiality agreement, the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal three days later held that the trial court cannot selectively disclose a court order or decision to some members of the media while withholding it from others.
Although it threw out the confidentiality agreement, the appellate court found the trial court had not "departed from the essential requirements of the law" in withholding the location of jury selection proceedings until a time proximate to the start of the trial. "In this case, the trial court has said that it will provide sufficient notice to enable the media to travel to the jury selection location from the Orange County Courthouse prior to the beginning of court proceedings."