In 1976, a series of mistrials occurred in a murder case involving Stevenson in Virginia state court. Wheeler and McCarthy, reporters for Richmond Newspapers (plaintiff), were present in the courtroom during Stevenson’s fourth trial. Defense counsel brought a motion to exclude the public from the trial. The prosecution did not object, and the trial judge closed the proceedings to the press and public. Wheeler and McCarthy, as members of the press, objected to the closure on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment’s protection of the freedom of the press and moved to intervene as parties in the case. The Virginia Supreme Court denied their motion, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.