WASHINGTON -- Three Supreme Court justices who have bTC supported states' power to punish the press for publishing the names of rape victims joined in an opinion yesterday that did just that.
The name of a Detroit woman who accused her former boyfrienof rape was included in the main opinion in a Michigan case decided by the court on a 7-2 vote.
A Michigan appeals court, ruling earlier in that case, had left out the name.
Public disclosure of the identities of sexual assault victims has become controversial anew in the wake of a Florida supermarket tabloid's revelation recently of the name of the alleged victim in a reported rape at the Kennedy family estate in Palm Beach. And the nation's news media are discussing publicly their varying policies on identifying alleged rape victims.
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote yesterday's opinion for the Supreme Court majority, and among those supporting it in full were Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Byron R. White.
Two years ago, those three justices had dissented when the Supreme Court overturned a $90,000 verdict against a small Florida newspaper because it had violated a law against publishing rape victims' names.
The woman was not named in a concurring opinion written by Justice Harry A. Blackmun, or in a dissenting opinion Justice John Paul Stevens wrote.
The woman's name was used repeatedly in written briefs submitted by Michigan prosecutors and Justice Department lawyers, who had urged the justices to throw out the state court's ruling.