15 Aug 2003

American Samoa court gives gag order in high-profile diappearance case

3:27 pm on 15 August 2003

American Samoa's High Court has issued a gag order on everyone involved in the Wyatt Bowles Jr disappearance case.

The order, believed to be the first of its kind issued by the court, prohibits attorneys, witnesses, defendants, court personnel and anyone connected with the investigation and litigation of the case from making statements to the media about it

The order, signed by Associate Justice, Lyle Richmond, says the Bowles case has been the subject of considerable and unusual pre-trial publicity.

It says numerous newspaper articles and letters to the editor have been published which have reported comments by several counsel, the police and at least one defendant.

The court concludes there is a reasonable likelihood that any further publications could prejudice a fair trial

The court does however leave room for the media and individual reporters to contest the order.