76 / 61
      80 / 64
      82 / 64

      South Carolina lawyers argue for and against gag order in Heather Elvis case

      The disappearance of Heather Elvis, 20, in Horry County and the arrests of two suspects for murder led to extensive media coverage, which is why a judge recently placed a gag order on all parties involved in the trial.

      The order, which was placed by Circuit Court Judge Steven John on March 21, prohibits all parties, including defendants, prosecutors and law enforcement agencies, from speaking to the media

      "It really needs to be used in some cases like this. You have a duty to protect not only the defendant's rights, but also the community. In this case, you have a community that definitely wants this trial held here, and in order to do that, you can't have a situation where the jury pool is tainted," explained criminal defense attorney Alex Hyman.

      Hyman added that even with the gag order, finding an impartial jury won't be easy. "There has been such a huge amount of media coverage on this case that I can see where that would be difficult."

      At some point, Hyman said he expects that the defense will file a motion to have a change of venue.

      But not everyone agrees with Judge John's decision to impose the gag order. Jay Bender, an attorney for the South Carolina Broadcaster's Association, said the public's right to be informed is being overlooked.

      "There is nobody in the courtroom at the time this is being presented and argued who would say well, there is the public to consider, as well as a defendant's right to a fair trial, very often that gets overlooked," Bender explained.

      Bender argued the gag order goes beyond silencing the prosecution and the defense, saying it's just another excuse for police and the prosecution to operate in secret.

      "This gives law enforcement an opportunity to say, 'Oh, I can't say anything about that. I can't let you see the records because of this order.' And I don't think that's appropriate."

      One thing both Bender and Hyman did see eye to eye on was just how rare it is for a judge to grant a gag order in South Carolina. They both say out of every 1,000 cases in the state, only a handful see gag orders issued.

      Sidney and Tammy Moorer both face murder and kidnapping charges in this case.

      Sidney and Tammy Moorer both face murder and kidnapping charges in this case.

      Heather Elvis disappeared in December. Her body hasn't been found.