Sinclair-owned Nebraska station KHGI (NTV) is being blamed for causing a mistrial in a Kansas murder trial after it aired footage of people waiting to be chosen as jurors.
“We sent a reporter to cover the important case,” said the Kearney ABC affiliate. “A court official showed our reporter where it would be okay to stand.”
Kansas prohibits photographs or video of jurors.
“Unfortunately, we did not know there were potential jurors in that location, which we then showed in video that aired Monday,” it said. “Had we known jurors were in the hall, NTV would not have filmed or aired the video.”
A Norton County judge declared a mistrial in the case of Bobby Tallent, who is facing multiple charges including first-degree murder. He’s also accused of firing on police officers and leading them on a chase after stealing a vehicle.
“Due to the degree of prejudice resulting to the fair selection of an impartial jury it is not possible to continue and a mistrial is necessary,” said the judge.
The station news director wrote an apology note. See below for the full text.
On behalf of the NTV News Team, I would like to sincerely apologize for the events leading up to the recent mistrial in Norton, Kansas. This was a mistake based on a misunderstanding of the Kansas Courtroom rules. I knew we could not film in the courtroom since we did not receive prior approval to do so. However, I improperly assumed we were still allowed to film in the public hallways outside of the courtroom which is a common practice in Nebraska.
Later that afternoon when we aired the update to the trail as we were editing video to correspond with the update, we selected two clips of people sitting in the public hallway outside of the courtroom. At the time, we assumed these individuals were people in the general public who had come to watch the trial. We now know they were potential jurors. Our reporter asked courthouse staff where it would be appropriate to stand to be able to film the defendant walking into the courtroom and was told to stand in the hallway.
On behalf of NTV News, I sincerely apologize for our role in this mistrial. There was never any malicious intent to interfere with this trial. Nevertheless, we made a mistake and would like to apologize to the people of Norton, Kansas as well as Chief Judge Pratt, his team, and everyone associated with this trial. Furthermore, we apologize to all of our viewers for our actions in this case.
We are working with the Kansas Court and are putting new policies in place for our future coverage to make sure this never happens again. Judge Pratt has been very gracious in communicating with us and Lisa Taylor with the Kansas Supreme Court has also been a huge help.
– News Director