January 1, 2011 The right of a criminal defendant to receive a fair trial and the right
of the press to publish information about a defendant or criminal act are both guaranteed by the U.S.
Constitution. Both are valuable and important rights. These two safeguards, however, can conflict when
pretrial publicity has the potential to prejudice a potential jury pool, and ultimately deprive a
defendant, a victim or the people of a fair and just trial.
While it can be frustrating to the media that my policy is not to discuss in detail specific facts surrounding criminal cases that are pending or under investigation, this policy is required by law. As a member of the Missouri Bar, as an officer of the courts, and to retain my law license and serve the people of Greene County as their Prosecuting Attorney, I am legally and ethically bound to abide by all of the rules of the Missouri Supreme Court and the laws of the State of Missouri.
There are two specific rules mandated by the Missouri Supreme Court that provide guidelines on what information l am legally allowed to share with the media and with the public. These rules have been specifically implemented to preserve a defendant's, a victim's and the public's right to a fair and just trial.
Each of these rules are included below for the community's clarification. The first rule 4-3.6 -- must be followed by ALL lawyers in the State of Missouri. The second rule 4-3.8 applies to all prosecutors in the State of Missouri.
4-3.6. Trial Publicity (Rules all Missouri lawyers must follow)
A lawyer who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter.
Notwithstanding Rule 4-3.6(a), a lawyer may state:
Notwithstanding Rule 4-3.6(a), a lawyer may make a statement that a reasonable lawyer would believe is
required to protect a client from the substantial undue prejudicial effect of recent publicity not
initiated by the lawyer or the lawyer's client. A statement made pursuant to this Rule 4-3.6(c)
shall be limited to such information as is necessary to mitigate the recent adverse publicity.
No lawyer associated in a firm or government agency with a lawyer subject to Rule 4-3.6(a) shall make a statement prohibited by Rule 4-3.6(a).
The comment to Supreme Court Rule 4-3.6 provides that the following "subjects that are more likely than not to have a material prejudicial effect on a proceeding:
4-3.8. Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor (Rules for prosecutor's only.
Bolded copy is relates to this topic) The prosecutor in a criminal case shall:
refrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause;
make reasonable efforts to assure that the accused has been advised of the right to, and the procedure for obtaining, counsel and has been given reasonable opportunity to obtain counsel;
not seek to obtain from an unrepresented accused a waiver of important pretrial rights, such as the right to a preliminary hearing;
make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense and, in connection with sentencing, disclose to the defense and to the tribunal all unprivileged mitigating information known to the prosecutor, except when the prosecutor is relieved of this responsibility by a protective order of the tribunal;
not subpoena a lawyer in a grand jury or other criminal proceeding to present evidence about a past or present client unless the prosecutor reasonably believes: