In a surprising twist, the public defender appointed to represent Nigel Brown, Ms. Kaitlyn Beck, has recently filed a Motion to Compel Discovery and for a Gag Order. In the motion, Ms. Beck contends that her client would be prejudiced if not granted access to all of the communications between the victim’s attorney, Mr. Epps, and the District Attorney. Interestingly, it is alleged that any statement made by Mr. Epps on behalf the victim are “witness statements” and subject to the discovery requirements despite the reality that statements of Mr. Epps could never be used to impeach the victim’s testimony at trial and therefore are not considered witness statements within the context of O.C.G.A. § 17-16-1 or O.C.G.A. § 17-16-8.
She further alleges the alleged rapist is entitled to updated contact information for the victim, including current location, phone number, and address. It is suggested that failure to provide this information can be deemed “bad faith”. Despite filing a Motion to Compel, the statutory basis for Mr. Brown’s request does not require the District Attorney’s Office to provide this information until ten days prior to trial. See O.C.G.A. § 17-16-8. Additionally, the trial court has the right to further limit the disclosure of contact information, subject to the right of defense counsel to have an opportunity to interview the witness prior to trial testimony.
Although the District Attorney’s Office has a duty to make an effort to obtain current address and phone number for the victim, they are not obligated to provide information that is not available to them so long as they make a diligent attempt to obtain same. See: Shields v. State, 264 Ga. App. 232 (2003). To the event Ms. Beck is well-informed that the victim is represented by Mr. Epps, it seems logical that she would need to communicate through his office to have contact with the victim.
Additionally, the motion filed by Ms. Beck ignores the provisions of O.C.G.A. § 17-17-10 which allows trial courts to impose a restriction on any disclosure of a victim’s address, phone number or place of employment to limit sharing that information to the Defendant himself.
Ms. Beck then argues that the Court should impose a “gag order” based on the right of the alleged rapist to a fair trial. It is suggested that sharing certain information implicating Mr. Brown in this horrific rape inappropriately interfered with the public opinion of Mr. Brown. The motion goes on to suggest that Mr. Epps was tainting the ability of the local population to hear and judge the evidence of the case without any pre-conceived bias.
Although there was some media interest in the Court’s consideration of the District’s Attorney’s Office untimely dismissal of the initial charges, Ms. Beck has failed to demonstrate any recent significant media attention. Although Mr. Brown does have certain rights protected by the U.S. Constitution regarding the right to an trial by impartial jury trial, the victim, members of the media, and members of the public also have a
A general “gag order” as requested by Ms. Beck on behalf of the alleged rapist fails to provide any support that there is a reasonable likelihood that any statement by the victim and/or her legal counsel is likely to be so prejudicial that it is sufficient to sustain a gag order. In this context, Ms. Beck is requesting a “prior restraint” which is a judicial order forbidding certain communications regarding her client’s case issued prior to the time any potential communications are to actually occur. This type of restraint on speech and publication is one of the most serious and least tolerable infringements on a person’s First Amendment rights.
A hearing on the motion is set for November 20, 2023 at 9:00 a.m. Ms. Beck’s efforts to harass and intimidate the victim in this matter should be denied. The motion was filed in bad faith solely to intimidate, harass and disparage the victim and her legal counsel.
Motion to Compel Discovery and for a Gag Order