MySpace account no longer at issue in murder case

A prosecutor out of Hayward, Calif., who had intended to force a murder suspect's mother , has done an about-face on the issue.

After taking some heat in the press from First Amendment legal scholars, Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Amilcar "Butch" Ford, who has not returned phone calls from CNET, told a judge Friday morning that he was not filing a motion asking the court to restrict what goes up on Laura Rangel's MySpace account. Rangel's site is a place for friends and family to leave messages for her jailed daughter, Laura Medina, and has also become the platform for her campaign urging a fair trial in her daughter's case.

The case goes back to June 22, 2004, following a long car chase and fatal crash. Police allege that Medina, 24, got angry after spotting her then-boyfriend in Oakland, Calif., in a vehicle with a new girlfriend. Driving her own vehicle, Medina allegedly rammed and bumped into the other car until the driver lost control and crashed, in Castro Valley, Calif., killing an 18-year-old and injuring three others, police said.

Ford was reportedly concerned that police reports and other public documents on Rangel's site have the potential to taint the trial, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 30. He was particularly concerned about a photo Rangel posted of Ford with his grandmother, a fellow prosecutor said two weeks ago, when a hearing on the supposed motion was originally scheduled.

Ford did not tell the judge on Friday why he wasn't filing the motion, but Rangel's lawyer, Paul Dennison, suspects others convinced Ford that he couldn't force public documents to be taken down from the site without violating Rangel's free speech rights.

Dennison added that since the MySpace conflict arose, Ford has suggested Rangel might be called as a witness in the case, and therefore wouldn't be allowed to sit in the courtroom during the trial. Dennison said he wonders whether Ford is doing that as a way of punishing Rangel for the MySpace site; not being at her daughter's side during the trial would be excruciating for her, he said.

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