Alamance County judges affirm reporters’ access to hearings

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 20, 2020

GRAHAM (AP) — Judges in North Carolina have announced new procedures for reporters to access hearings less than two weeks after a newspaper publisher was handcuffed and ordered out of a courtroom.

The News & Observer reports that Alamance County judges announced the policy after the newspaper and two other news outlets, the Alamance News and Triad City Beat, asked the North Carolina Court of Appeals to force the courts to let in journalists.

Friday’s order by the judges says reporters must request permission in advance to attend hearings, and up to five journalists will be allowed in a courtroom.

Journalists have been barred from attending recent Alamance County court hearings even when they requested permission in advance. Courthouse staff cited COVID-19 as the reason for limiting access to victims and defendants.

District Court Judge Fred Wilkins barred reporters from attending a plea hearing for Sandra Warren Brazee, a white woman accused of driving her pickup truck at two 12-year-old Black girls. Tom Boney Jr., publisher of The Alamance News, was handcuffed and ordered out of a courtroom as he objected. He was then released.

The news outlets’ petition to the Court of Appeals is pending.