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Beryllium case gag order appealed

By Ann Imse, News Staff Writer

The Colorado Supreme Court is being asked to overturn a gag order in the Rocky Flats beryllium trial that shut down a Web site run by a university professor.

Though the case and the gag order ended Wednesday, expert witness Dr. David Egilman is worried that it could be repeated, said his attorney, Bruce Pringle.

Jefferson County District Court Judge Frank Plaut's order is clearly prior restraint on Egilman's free speech, Pringle said.

Plaut issued the gag order against all attorneys, plaintiffs, defendants and witnesses in the Rocky Flats beryllium trial, and he included Web sites. Egil is an expert on the history of occupational illnesses, including asbestosis and beryllium disease. His Web site includes documents relating to the case, but also his outraged commentary on it.

The Web site is used by Egilman's class, which discusses occupational health issues such as those in the beryllium trial.

"Thus, the information which was the subject of the gag order was already in the public domain," the petition says.

It also says the order was too broad in barring statements on the Internet about "any witnesses or evidence in the case."

The Web site incurred the judge's disgust before the trial began. Plaut said comments made on the site showed bias that undermined Egilman as an expert witness.

After defense attorneys produced copies of Egilman's Web site midway through the trial, the judge ordered the jury to strike his testimony that Brush Wellman planted scientific articles that discounted the danger of beryllium.

But Egilman insists he obeyed the judge's order by making the Web site password-protected, and thus no longer public. He says Brush Wellman attorneys were able to take copies off it only by breaking into it illegally.

June 27, 2001

 
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