8/26/2005Appeals Court Overturns Pennsylvania Radar Gag Order
Philadelphia papers can once again report on the Pennsylvania State Police radar cover-up.
On Wednesday, the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed an order that was designed to prevent public disclosure of damaging information regarding the faulty Genesis brand radar speed detecting unit used by the Pennsylvania State Police as well as many other forces around the country. Court documents released last year had shown Pennsylvania's radar guns issued 200,000 citations generating $26 million in revenue.
One ticket recipient, Brent Hanlin, believed he was innocent and called state police radar expert John Shingara to testify in his court challenge. Under oath, Shingara was forced to reveal that the Genesis model was prone to error and state officials refused to apply any of the recommended fixes for the problems. Specifically, the most common patrol vehicles, 2003 and 2004 Ford Crown Victoria police cars, could not properly power the Genesis radar allowing "alternator whine" from the car to generate false readings. When this happens, the radar unit will display a speed around 70 miles per hour, even if the gun is pointed at a stationary object. Hanlin was accused of driving 70 MPH.
After his testimony, Shingara was quickly relieved of his responsibilities despite his thirty years of service. Shingara responded by filing a lawsuit alleging retaliation for his court testimony and claiming a coverup on the part of the Pennsylvania State Police. In the course of the case, Shingara obtained hundreds of pages of documents showing the problems with the police radar which he shared with the Philadelphia Daily News. In response, a district court judge in December imposed a gag order on the case, to ensure no embarrassing information about the police radar could be made public. The district court ruled, "the disclosure of discovery materials to the media could unduly prejudice the public, from which jurors for this litigation may be selected."
The appeals court rejected this idea, saying "we fail to see how jury selection will be a serious concern, let alone good cause for a broad and sweeping protective order." The appeals court suggested the overriding concern in this case was that the importance of these issues to the public.
The full decision is available below in 137k PDF format at the source link below.
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