Friday 28 January 2011

WDAM airs video after court's OK

Hattiesburg station WDAM-TV on Thursday aired a video that the station said shows mistreatment of juveniles at the Forrest County Juvenile Detention Center.

The broadcast came hours after the Mississippi Supreme Court handed down an order allowing the station to show the footage.
The video showed a person who appears to be a detention center employee restraining and punching a juvenile.
At one point, a juvenile appeared to have been hogtied.
No one in the video was recognizable.
WDAM showed about 1 minute, 15 seconds of video on its 6 p.m. report. The video had a time stamp showing it was taken on at least two occasions in January 2009.
The video was provided by former detention center employee Tawana Bolton, 39, who was fired in July.
Forrest County Sheriff Billy McGee said earlier this month that Bolton also delivered the video to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, which handed over the investigation to the FBI.
McGee said an FBI investigation led to the firing of an unidentified employee for physically abusing inmates at the juvenile facility. McGee said the employee could face criminal charges.
The station aired the video after a three-judge panel of the state Supreme Court lifted an injunction that have prevented the station from showing the video.
The TV station's attorney called the order "a great victory for the public."
"One of the core principles of this democracy is that there will not be government censorship. Our Mississippi Supreme Court reaffirmed that today," said attorney Leonard Van Slyke of Jackson.
The legal battle over the video began when county officials learned in late December that the station had obtained the video.
Youth Court Judge Mike McPhail issued the injunction to protect the identities of juveniles.
The TV station last week asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to vacate McPhail's injunction.
WDAM news director Randy Swan on Thursday referred questions to Van Slyke.
Youth Court prosecutor Pamela Luckie Castle and Judge McPhail could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
Castle on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that McPhail acted properly when he issued the injunction.
She said in a written response to the Supreme Court that the station had not gone through proper channels to get permission to broadcast the video.
Instead, she said, "WDAM was simply interested in airing the video footage for the sensation that it might create and not for any other reason."
The TV station argued that McPhail's order violated the station's First Amendment rights.
Supporting the TV station were more than 30 media organizations from around the U.S., including Gannett Corp., which publishes the Hattiesburg American.

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