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Gag order lifted in hog farm trials, final judgment entered

By Erin Smith

The gag order which had kept local hog farmers silent regarding the recent and pending federal trials against Murphy-Brown LLC, has been lifted by Judge Earl Britt. The gag order was officially lifted on Friday afternoon.

Judge Britt put the gag order in place in June during the second hog farm trial. Judge Britt issued the gag order after a juror reported he had seen news accounts regarding the trials. The juror was questioned regarding his ability to remain unbiased after seeing the accounts and the court allowed the juror to remain on the case. Due to the incident, Judge Britt ruled a gag order would be put in place to “protect the integrity of the trial process.”

Prior to the gag order being put in place, there was media coverage of the trials. Judge Britt argued that potential jurors for future trials could potentially be tainted by exposure to news coverage.

Judge Britt’s court order reads, “publicity included: press releases and information disseminated on various websites and blogs, including one registered to the subsidiary of defense counsel’s law firm; an article intimidating a potential witness through her Facebook feed; and public rallies. Further, likely as a result of the significant publicity, plaintiffs’ counsel received a direct threat by a member of the public via email, which the court referred for further investigation.”

The gag order was opposed by the defendants in the trials. The motion asking Judge Britt to vacate the gag order was filed on August 9, according to court records.

Judge Britt notes in Friday’s court order that, if the Plaintiffs and Defendants feel it is warranted, the gag order can be reinstated by the court.

Also on Friday, Judge Britt entered an order of final judgment in the trials. The order notes that both the Defendants and the Plaintiffs have agreed to “pursue potential options for alternative resolution of future trials.”  Also both parties have requested to be allowed to proceed with the appeals process. Judge Britt signed the order directing the Federal Court Clerk to enter judgement on the verdict from April 26, 2018. This will allow the appeals process to begin to move forward.

The next trial is not scheduled to being until November 2018 according to court documents.

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