James Madison University: Photographs Seized from Student Newspaper

Category: Freedom of Conscience
Schools: James Madison University

In April 2010, the Rockingham County, Virginia, prosecutor Marsha Garst sent a large group of police officers to the offices of James Madison University (JMU) student newspaper The Breeze with an improper warrant to seize photographs of the annual Springfest party near campus. The party had drawn about 8,000 people—students and non-students—and caused substantial public disorder, including violence. There were dozens of arrests, and The Breeze was there taking pictures. The prosecutor seized about 1,000 photos, including many entirely irrelevant ones, but almost immediately gave them back because they had been seized improperly. After various negotiations, Garst apologized and had to narrow down her request to only the photos relating to eight specific incidents—just 20 photos.