The City of Greensboro received a favorable ruling from the North Carolina Supreme Court on the appeal of a Superior Court ruling placing a gag order on city councilmembers regarding police body worn camera footage.
The City Council requested permission from Superior Court Judge Susan Bray to view police body worn camera videos of an incident that occurred in downtown Greensboro on Sept. 10, 2016.
That incident involved the arrest of four black men. One of those men alleged misconduct by the police. A cell phone video of the event was released on YouTube, but it is only two minutes long, while the police have approximately four hours of body worn camera videos.
Judge Bray agreed to allow city councilmembers to view video but only after they signed a pledge of confidentiality not to disclose or discuss the body worn camera footage except with other members of the City Council, the city manager and legal counsel for the city.
The city appealed the “gag order” and Judge Bray denied the appeal.
It is this denial of appeal that the Supreme Court has overruled and sent back to the trial court for a new hearing.
According to the Supreme Court decision, there was “no explanation” given for denying the appeal. The decision states, “On this record, we hold that the trial court abused its discretion.”
In concurring opinion, NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby states,”the basis for the denial of the motion is unclear, rendering it impossible for this Court to determine if the ruling was arbitrary. Thus, the matter should be remanded to the trial court for clarification.”
According to the transcript of the hearing to modify the gag order, Judge Bray denied the request for modification because the city councilmembers had not viewed the videos.
When told that the city councilmembers had not viewed the videos, according to the transcript, Judge Bray said, “Well, that makes a difference. I’m not really inclined to entertain their motion if they haven’t even bothered to watch it.”