Judge bars public from court in NYC bike path terror trial

Feb 20, 2023, 9:27 PM | Updated: Feb 21, 2023, 4:05 pm
FILE — A damaged Home Depot truck remains on the scene, Nov. 1, 2017, after the driver mowed down...

FILE — A damaged Home Depot truck remains on the scene, Nov. 1, 2017, after the driver mowed down people on a riverfront bike path near the World Trade Center on Tuesday, in New York. A federal judge barred the general public and media from a courtroom Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, where defense lawyers claim emotional testimony from victims has spoiled the death penalty phase of the trial of Sayfullo Saipov who admits that he killed eight people on a bike path on behalf of a terrorist group. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge barred the general public and media from a courtroom Tuesday where defense lawyers claim emotional testimony from victims has spoiled the death penalty phase of the trial of a man who admits that he killed eight people on a bike path on behalf of a terrorist group.

Judge Vernon S. Broderick issued the edict Friday at the trial of Sayfullo Saipov through a court spokesperson, who wrote that courtroom seats would only be available to witnesses or parties considered essential to the trial. The judge announced late Tuesday that a few reporters might be allowed at the trial Wednesday on a “bench all the way in the back” of the courtroom.

The public and the media were excluded from the courtroom in part to make room for Saipov’s family members and numerous victims and family members of those who were killed. Victims have attended the trial for weeks, providing tearful testimony about how their lives have changed.

Saipov last month was convicted of killing eight people on Oct. 31, 2017, by driving a rented truck over the bike path along the Hudson River at a high rate of speed. Afterward, prosecutors said, he asked to hang a flag for the Islamic State group in his hospital room while he recovered from a police officer shooting him.

After hearing witnesses over what is expected to be a two-week period, the jury that convicted him will decide whether he gets death or life in prison. If any of them vote against death, he will automatically serve life in prison.

The judge directed the public and the media to watch the trial on television monitors elsewhere in the courthouse. Those monitors, however, show only a sliver of the courtroom and rely on lawyers, witnesses and the judge speaking into microphones and on court personnel remembering to switch on video and audio.

The monitors also do not enable members of the media to observe the courtroom reactions of Saipov’s family members or the victims and family members of those who died.

Their reactions, along with those of witnesses, grew in relevance after defense lawyers argued Friday in court papers that a mistrial should be declared because the volume of emotional testimony seems designed to make jurors choose a death sentence out of anger or spite or to prevent Saipov from communicating with his children, since those he killed can no longer speak with theirs.

The likelihood of emotional reactions by spectators was anticipated to be so high that Broderick warned them Tuesday that they should leave the courtroom if they become too emotional. Members of the media would be unable to know if anyone walked out.

The interest in impartial observers to the court proceeding was noted when defense lawyers asked the judge in their letter Friday to request that court stenographers preserve any audio recordings they routinely make to aid their work. Prosecutors called the request unprecedented and opposed it. A recording, though, would aid judges on appeal as they review how emotional testimony became.

Letters were filed in the case Tuesday to protest the exclusion of media from the courtroom.

In a letter joined by The Associated Press, New York Times attorney Dana Green urged the judge to recognize that a live video feed providing a narrow view of the courtroom was not an adequate substitute for being in the courtroom. She urged the judge to allow at least a small number of seats for a press pool. The New York Post and the Daily News also supported the request.

In a separate letter, Matthew Russell Lee of the Inner City Press noted that the presence of the media was “particularly important in capital cases.”

Broderick’s order banning the public and the media was believed to be a first for a public terrorism trial involving Islamic extremists in Manhattan federal court since the trials began months after the Feb. 26, 1993, World Trade Center bombing that killed six people and injured more than 1,000 others.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


File - Credit cards as seen July 1, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. A low credit score can hurt your ability...
Associated Press

What the Fed rate increase means for your credit card bill

The Federal Reserve raised its key rate by another quarter point Wednesday, bringing it to the highest level in 15 years as part of an ongoing effort to ease inflation by making borrowing more expensive.
9 hours ago
police lights distracted drivers shooting...
Associated Press

Authorities: Missing mom, daughter in Washington found dead

A missing Washington state woman and her daughter were found dead Wednesday, according to police.
9 hours ago
Associated Press

Google’s artificially intelligent ‘Bard’ set for next stage

Google announced Tuesday it's allowing more people to interact with “ Bard,” the artificially intelligent chatbot the company is building to counter Microsoft's early lead in a pivotal battleground of technology.
1 day ago
Evelyn Knapp, a supporter of former President Donald, waves to passersby outside of Trump's Mar-a-L...
Associated Press

Trump legal woes force another moment of choosing for GOP

From the moment he rode down the Trump Tower escalator to announce his first presidential campaign, a searing question has hung over the Republican Party: Is this the moment to break from Donald Trump?
2 days ago
FILE - The Silicon Valley Bank logo is seen at an open branch in Pasadena, Calif., on March 13, 202...
Associated Press

Army of lobbyists helped water down banking regulations

It seemed like a good idea at the time: Red-state Democrats facing grim reelection prospects would join forces with Republicans to slash bank regulations — demonstrating a willingness to work with President Donald Trump while bucking many in their party.
2 days ago
FILE - This Sept. 2015, photo provided by NOAA Fisheries shows an aerial view of adult female South...
Associated Press

Researchers: Inbreeding a big problem for endangered orcas

People have taken many steps in recent decades to help the Pacific Northwest's endangered killer whales, which have long suffered from starvation, pollution and the legacy of having many of their number captured for display in marine parks.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Judge bars public from court in NYC bike path terror trial