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Fatal carjacking trial focus on anonymous comments posted on news Web sites

Staff Report • Feb 27, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Media watchers are focused on a Knoxville case that is knee-deep in the practice of letting readers post anonymous comments to news stories. According to a report in the Knoxville News Sentinel the battle between defenders of the First Amendment and its guarantee of a free press are toe-to-toe with advocates for the Sixth Amendment and its assurance of a fair trial for fatal carjacking suspects Letalvis Cobbins and George Thomas.Attorney Tom Dillard wants the judge to force local media to either disable such anonymous commentary on stories pertaining to the January 2007 torture slaying of a young Knox County couple or require the news organizations to draft policies requiring posters to reveal their identities and do a better job of policing content.That has media representatives and advocates crying foul, insisting either defense request would smack of prior restraint and censorship. Both the News Sentinel and WBIR-TV, Channel 10, whose Web sites are mentioned by name in the two motions, have summoned attorneys to appear on their behalf today.

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