Attorney wants media barred from reporting on N.J. murder trial

Defense attorney Joseph Mazraani asked judge to bar press coverage of the murder trial of Anthony Shuler.

JERSEY CITY — In a case that has had a number of bizarre twists, the defense attorney in the murder trial of Anthony Shuler has requested that reporters be barred from covering the trial.

Defense attorney Joseph Mazraani argued that jurors are reading Jersey Journal stories on the trial that included information from two sworn statements by a witness that were ruled inadmissible as evidence by Hudson County Superior Court Judge Patrick Arre.

The information, which was learned at hearings prior to the trial, was revealed out of the presence of the jury. Jurors were instructed before the trial — and every day at the trial — not to read any press accounts or discuss the trial with anyone. The Jersey Journal is the only media outlet covering the trial.

Shuler, who was 19 years old when authorities say he fatally shot Darren Edwards on June 28, 2010 at the corner of Duncan and Olean avenues in Jersey City. 

The Jersey Journal was barred by Arre from taking photographs on the two days the trial was covered prior to today. The Journal did not identify the 23-year-old witness by name because that would identify him as much as a photograph would.

The witness said in one statement that he was being threatened and harassed by multiple people because he gave a statement to homicide detectives in which he identified Shuler as the killer.

In the other statement, he told Hudson County Assistant Prosecutor Karen Kazanchy that he was lying when he said he was being threatened and harassed.

Mazraani also complained that The Jersey Journal was running older pictures of Shuler in which he had a long beard at a hearing that was covered by the newspaper. The witness had described the gunman as having a Muslim beard.

The defense lawyer apparently does not want jurors to see the bearded pictures of Shuler taken at hearings around the time of his arrest.

On the two days The Jersey Journal has covered the trial, it was only yesterday afternoon that the ban on photography was lifted as the testimony from that witness had ended.

Despite the instructions to jurors, Mazraani said that he knows jurors read press reports.

Arre asked Mazraani if he could cite any case law that would give the judge authority to ban the press from reporting on a trial conducted in open court. Mazraani said he would find some.

After a short break, Arre returned to the bench and Mazraani said he had found a case and was sending it to Arre from his cell phone. The judge has made no ruling on Mazraani’s request.

The defense attorney’s request to bar press coverage of the trial was made out of the presence of the jury this morning. Mazraani has also complained to Arre about comments made by readers regarding the trial. 

Shuler awaited trial in jail for more than eight years due to a number of factors, including charges filed against his former co-defendants.

Robert Dawson pleaded guilty to the second-degree crime of conspiracy and witness tampering to cause false testimony. His twin, Eric Dawson, pleaded guilty to second-degree witness tampering to cause false testimony on the same day, records indicate.

Charges against Golden Williamson were dismissed at the request of the prosecution, the records indicate. 

In opening statements, the state alleged Edwards was killed because he switched gangs and because he was gay.

The trial is in the Hudson County Administration Building in Jersey City. Testimony is continuing with Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office Det. Lt. Javier Toro on the stand. 

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