Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Judge Ordered to Rule on Release of Dunn's Phone Calls; Appeals Court Says Healey Must Decide on Media Request for Records in Case to Start Monday

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Judge Ordered to Rule on Release of Dunn's Phone Calls; Appeals Court Says Healey Must Decide on Media Request for Records in Case to Start Monday

Article excerpt

Byline: Larry Hannan

The 1st District Court of Appeal has once again reversed the judge's ruling in the Michael David Dunn murder trial on media access issues related to the case.

On Friday a three-judge panel with the appellate court unanimously ruled that Judge Russell Healey was wrong to say he lacked jurisdiction to rule in a dispute on phone calls Dunn has made from jail. The dispute is occurring between the office of State Attorney Angela Corey and three media organizations.

The Times-Union, First Coast News and WJXT TV-4 have all requested about 185 hours of phone calls Dunn made from jail. Dunn, 47, killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis in a dispute over loud music, telling police he felt threatened and thought he saw a gun.

The case has generated national attention because Dunn is white and Davis was black. Jury selection in the case is scheduled to begin on Monday.

The media organizations requested the phone calls and Healey ruled that they are public record and should be released. But Corey said she would not release the calls until her staff spends about 180 hours redacting them and media organizations pay $6,000 for their time. That is expected to take nine to 10 weeks, according to Corey.

Attorneys for the media went back to Healey and asked him to order the release of the phone calls immediately and to find the $6,000 excessive. Healey declined to rule, saying that the media need to sue Corey in civil court.

But the appellate court said Healey was wrong to do that, and he should be the one to make the decision. It ordered him to hold an evidentiary hearing and rule on the merits of the media motions.

But the appellate court also acknowledged that with the trial beginning Monday that would be difficult. It recommended that Chief Judge Donald Moran consider appointing another judge, a magistrate or a special master to consider the issue as soon as possible. …

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