Court Delays Decision in L.A. Times Prior-Restraint Case

Newspaper claims photos of quadruple-homicide suspect were not obtained illegally

A California Appeals Court delayed a decision in the case involving a Los Angeles Times photographer and courtroom photos of a quadruple-murder suspect.

At issue: whether or not the whether or not the Times has the right to publish the photos of Alberd Tersargyan, the alleged killer, taken by the photographer, Al Seib, before a judge ordered Seib to stop shooting.

During a hearing last week, a Superior Court judge initially gave Seib permission to photograph Tersargyan, but withdrew that permission and ordered the Times not to publish them after Tersargyan’s public defender argued that the photos would jeopardize his ability to get a fair trial. Seib took several dozen photos before being told to stop.

After the Times complained, the judge upheld her ruling, and the paper filed an appeal.

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel in the appellate court put off the decision for at least another week, according to the Times.

Ironically, also on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Department released a mug shot [above, right] of Tersargyan, who is accused of killing three members of a family and a prostitute in “sniper-style attack” on Sunset Boulevard.

Meanwhile, media observers seem to side with the Times.

"The judge has the ability at any time to order the photographer out of the courtroom," Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said last week. "What the judge does not have the ability to do, based on U.S. Supreme Court precedent, is bar the photographer from publishing the information he lawfully collected."