Gag Order Requested for DUI Trial

As the holiday season approaches, many people look forward to spending time with family members and friends they haven’t seen in months. Or at least they look forward to the delicious seasonal delicacies their family members make. In the midst of eating, drinking, and being merry, it’s easy to forget about arrests and criminal charges. But remember: eggnog is just as likely to cause a DUI as beer.

This lesson was learned the hard way by one Florida man, whose wife and daughter were killed in a drunk-driving accident the day after Thanksgiving, 2004. The trial of Billy Nichols, the man charged in the incident, has begun. And it’s been a strange one.

According to reports from the Ocala Star-Banner, 43-year-old Nichols has been charged with two counts of manslaughter DUI and two counts of vehicular homicide. The owner of a water sports store and a record-holder for endurance barefoot waterskiing, Nichols has allegedly been cited as an “important figure” in the Ocala community.

Perhaps it was this local reputation that caused Nichols’ criminal lawyer to reportedly request a gag order for the participants in the trial.

Sources indicate that John Fuller, Nichols’ lawyer, wants the trial’s judge to issue a gag order prohibiting anyone involved in the trial from making “inflammatory and extra-judicial statements” to any member of the press. Seem a little excessive?

Maybe. The request reportedly came as a result of a video posted by Adrian Cummings, the husband and father of the victims. Apparently, the video he made available on included an image of his hands holding a novelty license plate with pictures of his wife and daughter and the words “killed by a drunk driver 11-26-04.”

Fuller has insisted that the video was intended to evoke emotional responses from potential jurors, and that it polluted the juror pool, according to the Star-Banner. The defense attorney also reportedly threatened to request a change of venue if his request was not fulfilled.

But, according to sources, Cummings’ video was not intended to influence the trial at all. Cummings has allegedly credited his idea for the license plate to a similar POW-awareness item he saw, reports say. His reported intention was to give a face to victims of DUI crimes who cannot speak for themselves.

Another motion filed by Fuller suggested that the jury shouldn’t be allowed to see photographs of the victims alive, reports indicate.

Updates on the trial show that the judge refused Fuller’s requests for a gag order and change of venue. But one interesting incident has come to light.

According to the Star-Banner, one juror was allegedly approached by a man who claimed to be a friend of Nichols’ and had seen the jury selection process. The defense attorneys reportedly sought to have this man removed from the jury when he reported the incident, but the judge denied the request, citing his admirable juror behavior thus far.

No verdict has yet been reached.