Lubbock terror suspect Khalid Aldawsari will not be in open court on Monday. U.S. District Judge Sam Cummings canceled a courtroom status conference hearing. Instead, the hearing will be held in the judge's chambers, presumably out of the public's view.
Aldawsari is accused of trying to make a bomb in his central Lubbock apartment to blow up a nuclear power plant, or hydro-dam, or even the home of former president George W. Bush. If convicted he faces up to life in prison.
The judge's decision seems to run counter to a very recent appeals court ruling that customarily open criminal proceedings cannot be closed to the public without prior notice.
According to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, "… an opportunity to be heard should generally be afforded to the press and public before the closure of a proceeding to which a First Amendment right of access attaches."
KCBD NewsChannel 11 can find no such notice in the court record.
The Fifth Circuit ruled on May 17th in a Houston area criminal case in which the Hearst Newspapers (specifically, the Houston Chronicle) was not allowed into the courtroom when a defendant was sentenced.
The Fifth Circuit went on to say that even if the decision to close a hearing is correct, a judge still cannot do it until first taking steps to safeguard First Amendment rights.
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