Suspect in Moline-Brückenweg deaths against media coverage | State and Region

The suspect in the double fatality accident on the Interstate 74 pedestrian bridge in Moline does not want cameras in the courtroom during the trial related to her case.

Chhabria Harris

Chhabria Harris

An attorney for Chhabria Harris, 46, of East Moline, has filed a motion in Rock Island County Circuit Court protesting the increased media coverage. For more than a decade, media outlets have been allowed to use video and still images in trial and in pre-trial hearings with the approval of the presiding judge.

Harris’ attorney argued that such reporting was a threat to her constitutional right to a fair trial.

Attorneys for the Quad-City Times/Disapatch-Argus and KWQC-TV have objected to the motion, arguing that it failed to provide evidence that expanded coverage would affect Harris’s rights.

While Harris claims that expanded media coverage is “unusual and extreme,” local media argues that many cases, including high-profile cases locally and in other states, have been granted expanded access.

One example is the live streaming from hammer to hammer of the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse in Wisconsin.

The objection also argues that Harris is constitutionally protected from “targeted negative publicity,” which also drew opposition from newspapers and television networks.

“…Every criminal defendant involved in a newsworthy incident faces the problem of negative, pre-trial publicity, and the courts routinely and appropriately address it by increasing the size of the jury pool, allowing more searches voir dire, the carefully directing appointed jurors and doing so delays trials, jury seizures or changing the venue of a trial,” an attorney for the Times and KWQC wrote in their opposition.

While Harris’ attorney also expressed concern about the transmission of images of the defendant in an orange jail jumpsuit, saying such images could prejudice a jury, the prosecutor and police have already shared the photo of Harris’ jail booking, which has been widely reported was disseminated and broadcast.

However, both parties agreed that Harris should be allowed to wear civilian clothes and not be bound at court hearings.

A decision on the matter is expected during a hearing on Friday morning.

Harris is charged in the May 22 accident near the entrance to the bike and pedestrian lane on the I-74 bridge in Moline. Police say she was driving the Cadillac Escalade that hit the trail in Bettendorf and struck three pedestrians after crossing Moline.

Ethan Gonzalez, 21, died at the scene. Anthony Castaneda, 18, died days after sustaining serious injuries and Charles Bowen, 22, was also seriously injured.

She was charged with triple aggravated DUI, grievous bodily harm or death; three instances of failure to stop following an accident resulting in personal injury or death; three counts of serious reckless driving; and two counts of reckless homicide.

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