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Publish Date: 3/17/2005

Lawyer: Gag order in area shooting case goes too far


LONGMONT — A gag order placed on those involved in the case of a 14-year-old Boulder girl who says she shot her father to help him die after a failed suicide attempt is too broad and unconstitutional, according to a local media attorney.

Tom Kelly, attorney for the Colorado Press Association, said Wednesday there is plenty of investigation-related information that could be released to the public in the case without imperiling the fair-trial rights of the girl.

“It is a blanket order saying, ‘You shall say nothing about the case,’” he said, arguing that the public has an interest in the legal proceedings.

He suggested that any challenge to the order might come during the girl’s March 28 hearing.

Boulder County Magistrate T.J. Cole issued the order Wednesday at the request of the public defender’s office.

“The court had a brief hearing on the public defender’s request regarding media coverage,” the order reads, naming all of the legal parties involved.

“The court imposes a gag order based on the substantial likelihood that extrajudicial commentary will undermine a fair trial. This order will be reviewed at filing of charges.”

Kelly said gag orders usually list a series of topics that cannot be discussed in public but don’t cut off all information from the case, as this one apparently does.

Margaret Rich, 14, made her first two court appearances Monday when she was advised of the charges she may face. She was arrested Sunday on suspicion of manslaughter.

She called police at about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, gave her address — 2008 N. 75th St. — and hung up. When deputies arrived, they found out that her father was dead in an upstairs room.

She told investigators she had discovered him suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, held his hand for a while, and then decided to shoot him again to end his misery.

The Boulder County Coroner’s office has delayed identifying the dead man as Rich’s father as questions about his identity are cleared up. Investigators have not provided more information on what those might be.

Garrett Rich, 56, is listed as owner of the home and identified as Margaret’s father in a divorce petition.

Earlier this week, Lt. Phil West, spokesman for the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, said Margaret Rich didn’t indicate that her father was conscious in order to tell her what he wanted and no suicide note was found.

He said parts of her story were supported by physical evidence, but parts were inconsistent, including whether she was inside or outside the house when she said her father shot himself.

A local gas station attendant told the Times-Call on Tuesday that Rich told him in conversations that he was depressed.

Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-684-5273, or by e-mail at pshields@times-call.com.

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