Media stand in line Thursday morning as they wait to cover the Freddie Gray change of venue hearing.
Media stand in line Thursday morning as they wait to cover the Freddie Gray change of venue hearing. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

The crowd of journalists covering the Freddie Gray pretrial hearings grew for Day 2, with about 70 journalists snapping up all available press passes at the courtroom.

Representatives for outlets as varied as CNN, Fox, NBC, ABC, PBS, Radio France Internationale, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, the Associated Press, National Public Radio, Gawker and Buzzfeed were in Baltimore on Thursday. The day's hearing was to determine whether there will be a change of venue for six police officers accused in the arrest and death in April of the Baltimore man. About 50 journalists covered the first round of hearings on Sept. 2.

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News anchors who wore sneakers with their suits, and scuffed flats to accompany their elegant sheath dresses and pearls, gossiped about the case, complained about the rain and the 8 a.m. credentialing line, sought directions to the restaurants of Little Italy and groused about the cheapness of their respective employers. In short, they behaved exactly like journalists everywhere.

In contrast to the media swell, the crowd of onlookers inside the courtroom shrunk by more than half Thursday, to about 50. Outside the courtroom, the media throng outnumbered protesters by a ratio of two or three to one.

The major cable news outlets sent correspondents to Baltimore who had previously covered aspects of the Gray case. On-screen personalities spotted Thursday included Miguel Marquez and Jean Casarez of CNN and Leland Vittert of Fox News channel (sample Tweet: "Media outnumber protesters who are way outnumbered by police in #Baltimore"). CNN's morning broadcast featured segments on the $6.4 million civil settlement approved Wednesday and the hearing, including live stand-ups outside the courthouse with Casarez.

Media coverage has already figured into the case, with Judge Barry Williams ruling that the near-ubiquitous publicity has not tainted the potential jury pool in Baltimore.

A rare moment of humor occurred after Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow attempted to concede that "national publicity has died down somewhat" since the outbreak of violence in late April.

Judge Barry Williams interrupted him and asked incredulously, "Have you watched the news lately?"

A chuckle spread through the courtroom.

Attorney Ivan Bates, who argued the motion on behalf of all six defendants, cited not just the overwhelming amount of news stories and broadcasts as evidence that his clients couldn't receive a fair trial in the city, but also polls taken in which potential jurors were queried about the guilt or innocence of the six officers.

Both media members and other observers were warned several times to turn off all cell phones in the courtroom upon threat of confiscation. Reporters also were warned that they couldn't take any photographs on the second floor of the courthouse.

As also occurred last week, there was a rush to the exit the moment it became clear that Judge Williams was denying the change of venue motion.

mmccauley@baltsun.com

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