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Judge loosens restrictions on media in reporting jury details

MANCHESTER - A Hillsborough County Superior Court judge this morning loosened restrictions on media reporting about the jury in the attempted murder case of Myles Webster, the 23-year-old man accused of shooting Manchester Police Officer Daniel Doherty earlier this year.

Hillsborough County Superior Court North Judge Gillian Abramson backed off a toughly worded restriction on reporting of the jury, after the New Hampshire Union Leader challenged an order she issued last week.

In today's order, Abramson broadened permissible descriptions of the jury to include race and ethnicity. She had previously said reporters had to limit descriptions of the jury to gender, approximate age and general occupation. The judge did so, she said, to protect the privacy of jurors and the integrity of the process.

She had ordered that "no other information shall be published," and cited a 1995 ruling that said a judge has inherent power to control every aspect of a court proceeding. Today's ruling restricts the publication of "information that reasonably would lead to the identification of a juror."

Webster, who is a minority, is accused of shooting a white police officer, and under Abramson's original restrictions, media could not have reported the racial composition of the jury. Also, her restrictions would have prevented the reporting of jurors who doze off, appear distracted or make gestures or hand signals.

In his challenge to Abramson's ruling, Union Leader attorney Gregory Sullivan cited a 1990 U.S. First Circuit Court ruling that reads: "Knowledge of juror identities allows the public to verify the impartiality of key participants in the administration of justice, and thereby ensures fairness, the appearance of fairness and public confidence in that system."

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