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Gag order issued during wrongful death suit

A North Carolina Superior Court judge has issued a gag order in a contentious lawsuit, preventing all involved parties from speaking about the case to the public or media. The wrongful death claim is centered on a former sheriff's deputy who stands accused of causing the death of her husband. The man died in the couple's swimming pool in 2005.

The sheriff's office eventually ruled the death accidental and closed the case. Although no criminal charges were filed in the matter, the victim's family believed his wife was at least partly responsible for his death, prompting them to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the former deputy. The family's attorney told the court his clients believe the deputy killed her husband to collect on a $200,000 life insurance policy and that the sheriff's office helped her cover up the killing.

The judge explained that he issued the order to protect the family of the deceased man, hoping to protect them from negatively influencing the jury with comments made outside of court. He also forbade the parties from discussing the case on the Internet. He elaborated on his reasons for issuing the order, saying the case should be "tried in the courthouse on the merits of the case, not in the court of public opinion." The judge had previously heard complaints regarding comments the victim's family made to reporters that were viewed by some as offensive and inflammatory.

An initial pool of prospective jurors for the case was rejected, as it included a former sheriff and the defendant's one-time employer. The judge explained that the sheriff did nothing wrong, but said new candidates must be selected to ensure an impartial jury. Selection for the new jury is expected to begin shortly.

Source: Daily Reflector, "Judge issues Pollard gag order," Michael Abramowitz, Sep. 22, 2011

Source: WITN, "LAWYER: $200K Insurance Payout Motive in Pollard Death," Sept. 19, 2011

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