The same south Georgia judge who signed a sweeping gag order in the Tara Grinstead case heard arguments against it Thursday afternoon in an Irwin County courtroom.
But Judge Melanie Cross, of the Tifton Judicial Circuit, said it will take up to a week for her to decide if the order should stand. Cross signed the order without holding a hearing on Feb. 28, five days after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced an arrest in the 2005 case. Under the gag order, police, potential witnesses, court personnel and family members of both Grinstead and her alleged killer from making statements about the case.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News were the first media outlets to challenge the appeal. Other metro Atlanta, Macon and south Georgia media outlets also appealed the gag order. During Thursday’s hearing, attorney Lesli Gaither, representing the AJC and Channel 2, argued that the gag order is too broad and that extensive media coverage of the case is not enough to justify the order.
More than 11 years after Grinstead was reported missing, a tipster came forward with information that led to the arrest of Ryan Alexander Duke, according to the GBI.
Then, one of Duke’s former classmates at Irwin County High School was arrested and charged in connection to the case. Bo Dukes, 32, allegedly helped Duke “conceal and destroy” Grinstead’s body, authorities said.
Duke’s public defender, John Mobley, argued Thursday that Duke’s right to a fair trial will be harmed without the gag order in place.
“The media coverage has been constant and pervasive, almost daily,” Mobley said.
Cross said she will consider the arguments presented Thursday and do her own research before issuing a ruling within the week.