WRAL sues over denial of cameras in State Bar hearing
Posted January 11, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — Capitol Broadcasting Co., the parent company of WRAL-TV and WRAL.com, filed suit Monday to protest the North Carolina State Bar's refusal to allow video cameras into a disciplinary hearing of a prominent advocate for the wrongly convicted and to demand that the hearing be suspended until the dispute over cameras and live coverage is settled.
Christine Mumma, director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, faces a hearing before a three-person disciplinary panel of the State Bar on whether she violated the rules of professional conduct in the case of Joseph Sledge.
Sledge served almost 40 years for a double murder he didn't commit before he was exonerated and released from prison last January.
The State Bar's complaint alleges that Mumma was seeking a DNA sample from the family of a possible suspect in the Sledge case when, in October 2013, she took a water bottle from the home of Marie Andrus, the suspect's sister, and later had it tested for DNA.
WRAL News requested permission last Wednesday to have a video camera in the hearing room to provide live coverage of Mumma's hearing online, but Fred Morelock, a Raleigh attorney chairing the disciplinary panel refused the request.
"I realize that this case has some public interest, however I feel that the hearing will benefit from the absence of live coverage. Only still (and quiet) photography will be allowed," Morelock wrote in an email.
He denied a formal motion to allow cameras in the courtroom on Monday.
Capitol Broadcasting maintains the disciplinary hearing is subject to state open meetings laws, so video coverage should be allowed.
The company also is seeking a temporary restraining order to halt the disciplinary hearing until its lawsuit is addressed.