Saying it's necessary for a fair hearing, a judge has barred protesters from the trial of a woman charged with killing her baby by not having a timely Caesarean section.
Third District Judge Michael Burton issued an order Friday specifically banning the wearing of pins, signs, ribbons or clothing which "expresses support for or against the defendant or the prosecution" in the courthouse during the trial of Melissa Ann Rowland. Protesters must now stay at least 25 feet from the building, according to the order.
The decision comes after about a dozen protesters from women's advocacy groups surrounded Salt Lake County Deputy District Attorney Kent Morgan after a brief hearing in which prosecutors dismissed child endangerment charges against her. One woman from the activist group CodePink attempted to hand him a pink slip, as in the women's undergarment, "firing" prosecutors in the case.
Prosecutors say Rowland, 28, ignored multiple recommendations that she get a C-section to save the lives of her twins. One of the babies, a boy, was stillborn. The girl survived and has been adopted. However, both cocaine and alcohol were found in her system.
Rowland has denied refusing to get a C-section.
The murder charge is possible because Utah's criminal homicide statute covers "an unborn child at any state of development." The law, however, exempts the death of a fetus through abortion.
Prosecutors insist that the case is not political, but it has drawn outrage from women's rights groups.
"We will be there on Monday without pins or signs," said Andrea Moore Emmett, president of the National Organization for Woman of Utah.
Said Susan Vogel of Salt Lake City CodePink: "I would hope the judge's order does not prevent the growing number of people who want to support (Rowland) from coming to court and helping this woman through this horrible proceeding."
Vogel added that she would research the order to see if it was "evenhanded in terms of treating those who support criminal defendants the same as those who support crime victims, and in terms of our First Amendment rights."