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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – While family members of Antwon Rose II and their personal attorney have been frequently speaking out through the media, the Rosfeld family has remained silent.
That’s because of a gag order, said Rosfeld’s attorney Patrick Thomassey.
On Wednesday, Thomassey asked the judge to lift the gag order, saying a press conference on Tuesday by the Rose family attorney, Lee Merritt, violated that order.
This gag order issued by Judge Alexander Bicket last September seems pretty clear.
Neither the lawyers for the parties nor the potential witnesses in the case against Rosfeld are allowed to speak outside of court about the case.
“You don’t want the case tried in the press because a lot of misinformation could reach these jurors that would bias them,” criminal defense attorney Bill Difenderfer told KDKA’s Jon Delano on Wednesday.
“You really want to insure that the verdict is based on what they hear from the evidence chair.”
Most criminal cases do not have gag orders, says Difenderfer.
“Gag orders are very rare.”
They are mostly reserved for high profile cases like this one.
On Wednesday, Thomassey asked the judge to lift the gag order because Michelle Kenney, mother of Antwon Rose II, and Merritt have spoken to the media this week about the case.
Difenderfer says Thomassey is right to focus on the Rose attorney.
“If he is on TV addressing this case, talking about this case, in my opinion, he is clearly violating this gag order.”
That’s because paragraph three of the gag order also includes “all persons assisting or associated with the parties.”
“Assisted or associated — how can you say the lawyer for the victims aren’t associated with this case. That’s ridiculous.”
But Judge Bicket refused to lift the gag order.
When Thomassey asked if Mrs. Rosfeld was now free to speak to the media, the judge said he would not interpret the order for the parties, adding, “I will ask folks to use their discretion in talking to the media.”
“It’s so important that jurors hear what they hear in the courtroom and nowhere else.”
Difenderfer says if jurors hear what Merritt or Rose family members say, which is not testimony under oath or subject to cross-examination, it could prejudice their decision.
“When you have hearsay objections and rules of evidence that keep a lot of evidence out, there’s very, very good reason for that, most importantly because it’s unreliable and may not be important.”
Thomassey told Judge Bicket that these out-of-court statements violate the judge’s gag order that keeps attorneys, witnesses, and “all persons assisting or associated with the parties” from speaking about the case.
He asked the judge to lift the gag order, but the judge refused to do so, suggesting the jurors are now sequestered and should not be watching TV or reading newspapers.
“Do we really think they honor that?” questioned Difenderfer.
Delano: “Are they honoring that?”
Difenderfer: “In a perfect world, I’m sure they are. As a realistic defense attorney, I would be very, very leery of that. You have to be.”
Difenderfer says, lift the gag order or enforce it against everyone, including the Rose family attorney.
“Steve Zappala’s office should absolutely instruct him to stop it, and that the judge should reprimand him.”
The Rosfeld family says they will continue to honor the gag rule and won’t speak to the media during the trial.
KDKA has reached out to the Rose family attorney about whether they will continue to speak.
So far, no response.