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News media descend on courthouse for Freddie Gray hearings

Cameras surround protesters gathered at the courthouse prior to the first Freddie Gray hearings.
Cameras surround protesters gathered at the courthouse prior to the first Freddie Gray hearings. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

Representatives from two dozen news organizations showed up Wednesday morning to cover pretrial hearings for six police officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray.

#FreddieGray was also the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter Wednesday.

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Before the hearing, reporter Jean Casarez was doing live stand-ups on Calvert Street for CNN's Carol Costello and for HLN, where her report appeared with the title "Baltimore on Edge." Costello went on to do additional Gray-themed coverage, including interviewing Gray family attorney William H. "Billy" Murphy.

A vocal group of roughly 100 protestors waved placards and shouted chants as journalists and onlookers stood in line and filed slowly into the building. The crowd seemed divided evenly between protestors and reporters.

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About 50 journalists attended the hearing itself, according to court spokeswoman Terri Charles. The journos worked for the likes of CNN, ABC, NBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal -- in addition to local news outlets, the foreign radio station Radio France Internationale, and the British newspaper The Guardian.

The courthouse contains roughly 33 wooden benches, which were filled with between four and eight persons apiece. Though a portion of the seats were taken by reporters, the majority were occupied by curious onlookers. All but one of the free tickets reserved for the public were snapped up, according to deputies.

Security inside the courtroom was tight. Journalists had to register in advance for assigned seats and were prohibited from sending live dispatches from the courtroom. Judge Barry Williams briefly interrupted the proceedings after he heard a cell phone buzz, and warned that the device would be confiscated if it wasn't turned off immediately.

After Judge Williams finished ruling on the defense motions, there was a moment of silence. Then, a mass exodus began of journalists hurrying out of the courtroom seeking to be the first to report the news. They didn't even wait for the judge to finish speaking as he pleaded for a more civil discourse as the proceedings move forward.

An impromptu camera circle was set up on Calvert Street at Lexington Avenue as the reporters waited for the attorneys and other parties in the case to come outside and talk before the cameras.

CNN also showed footage of a protester being arrested. During a break in the hearing, Casarez and Miguel Marquez did a live feed.

Leland Vittert did a segment for Fox News Channel.

Otherwise, few national media personalities appeared.

Local outlets sent multiple reporters, photographers and videographers as well.

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