In a hearing in Chatham County Superior Court on Wednesday, Judge Michael Karpf delayed a motion to determine how print and broadcast media will be able to cover the trial of Leilani Simon, charged with murdering her 20-month-old son, Quinton.
On Dec. 14, 2022, the Chatham County grand jury indicted Leilani Simon with one count of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, one count of concealing the death of another, one count of falsely reporting a crime, and 14 counts of making false statements during the course of a police investigation. She had reported Quinton missing on the morning of Oct. 5, 2022. After nearly six weeks of searching by a multi-agency team of investigators, FBI pathologists in Quantico, Virginia, confirmed the remains found in the Chatham County landfill were those of Quinton Simon.
The motion hearing on Wednesday involved Rule 22, which dictates that "no person shall use any recording device in a manner that disrupts a proceeding." According to rule, Chatham County allows media to cover court proceedings, though some hearings are closed as ordered by the presiding judge.
In cases that draw national attention, such as the murder trial of the three men who killed Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick in February 2020, setting coverage expectations has become the norm. During that trial, the number of reporters allowed inside the courtroom was restricted, and no electronic devices were allowed inside the courtroom, except for a single camera that recorded the proceedings for limited broadcasting and for an overflow room provided for media outlets.
Quinton Simon:Leilani Simon, mother of missing Georgia toddler arrested, charged in case
Simon's attorney Robert Attridge Jr. did not object to broadcast media's coverage of the case, but state prosecutor Timothy Patrick Dean, did - at least partially.
"Reporters can come in with a pen and paper, and I wouldn't object to that. I'm talking about [not allowing] broadcasting and live streaming," argued Dean.
Karpf did not make a final decision as to how the media will be able to cover the case, largely because he was temporarily filling in for Chatham County Superior Court Judge Tammy Stokes, who is presiding over the case, but was "unavoidably out of court today," Karpf said.
"I figured you may make a case to Judge Stokes about that because of the distinction between print and electronic media… I'm not sure what she'll say about that," Karpf said, addressing Dean.
Citing the First Amendment, Karpf said he is "certain that Judge Stokes is going to file a much more detailed order on the Rule 22 requests."
Karpf said the decision to accommodate the media "will be thorough, and will be designed to provide fair access, but also to prevent any disruptions in the trial schedule."
Among other questions Karp said Stokes will have to consider is the size of the courtroom and accommodations for reporters, possibly with a media booth located in back, "but not six or seven camera crews, one or two."
Drew Favakeh is the public safety reporter for Savannah Morning News. You can reach him at AFavakeh@savannahnow.com.
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Will cameras be allowed in courtroom during Leilani Simon's murder trial?
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