Three-and-a-half weeks after defense attorneys for Daniel Lee Roberts asked for a gag order in his case, they have walked back their request, according to official court documents filed today.
Twenty-year-old Roberts has been accused of fatally injuring 19-year-old Kaleb Duckworth amidst an altercation at the Dawson County Applebee’s in July. Roberts was charged with aggravated battery, aggravated assault and two counts of murder.
The gag order would have barred both the state and the defendant from communicating with members of the media and the general public, out of concern for potential jurors being influenced against Roberts.
In particular, the Aug. 27 motion took issue with a “#justiceforkalebduck” billboard posted on the side of Georgia Highway 400.
“The clear purpose of this billboard is to influence the potential jurors in the Defendant’s two pending cases,” the motion stated.
At 8:50 a.m. Tuesday, the state filed a brief and citation supporting its motion to deny the defense’s gag order upon the case parties. That document referred to the order as a “prior restraint” on free speech that was “too broad.”
The prosecution’s motion furthermore stated that the defendant could not prove “exceptional circumstances” that would necessitate a gag order, such as inflammatory statements made by parties involved; statements posted by those parties to online media sources; or “disclosure of confidential information that would put Roberts on trial in the court of public opinion.”
The state further explained the aforementioned billboard “does not interfere with the defendant’s right to a fair trial,” continuing that “the defendant makes no showing that the complained-of billboard either was erected for the purpose of influencing potential jurors or that it even had such an influence.”
The defense’s Sept. 14 response called for the motion to be dismissed “without prejudice,” meaning the measure can be revisited at another time.
Then, later this morning, Kaleb’s mother, Amanda Duckworth, announced via a personal Facebook post that the defense had dismissed the gag order motion.
“Thank you for all your support and love,” she concluded, attaching a picture of Kaleb.
When contacted by DCN, she declined to comment. Roberts’ primary counsel, John Weaver, could not be reached.
Roberts continues to be held at the Dawson County Detention Center without bond leading up to his trial.