Fox reporter's lawyers seek to keep sources secret
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York's highest court will decide whether state law protects a Fox News reporter from revealing confidential sources from a story about James Holmes, who's accused of killing 12 people in a suburban Denver movie theater last year.
Holmes' lawyers want Jana Winter, who works at New York-based Fox News, brought to a Colorado courtroom to name two law officers who told her Holmes had mailed a notebook depicting violence to a psychiatrist. They argue the sources violated a gag order, may have later lied under oath about that and won't be credible as trial witnesses.
Holmes' attorneys argue that New York journalists, as a group, are not immune from being subpoenaed to testify in other states.
The Court of Appeals will hear arguments Tuesday. Its ruling is expected in December.
Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His murder trial is scheduled for February.
New York has a strong so-called "shield law" protecting professional journalists from having to disclose their confidential sources and preventing courts from finding them in contempt if they don't disclose. Colorado has a similar law, but with an exception to subpoena information "directly relevant to a substantial issue" that cannot be obtained elsewhere.
Winter reported that the notebook, mailed to a University of Colorado psychiatrist before the mass shooting, had drawings of "gun-wielding stick figures blowing away other stick figures." She cited two unnamed law enforcement sources.
FILE- In this April 10, 2013 file photo, Fox television reporter Jana Winter, right, and her attorneys arrive at district court for a hearing for Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes in Centennial, Colo. Winter’s lawyers want a New York appeals court to quash a subpoena that requires her to appear at a hearing in Colorado to name her sources cited in a 2012 article. She reported that Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes sent violent drawings to a psychiatrist before he opened fire on a packed movie theater in July of 2102, killing 12 people. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)
"In cases of confidential source information, the privilege is absolute," Winter's attorney Dori Hanswirth said of New York's law. "It was designed to be very strong."
"Essentially what we're arguing is that the public policy in New York that's embodied in the shield law should have prevented the judge from signing off on this particular subpoena," Hanswirth said Monday. Winter has "never wavered" on the accuracy of her report.
New York's shield law was first enacted in 1970. Gov. Nelson Rockefeller said at the time that it would make New York, as the nation's principal center for news gathering and dissemination, "the only state that clearly protects the public's right to know and the First Amendment rights of all legitimate newspapermen."
Daniel Arshack, an attorney for Holmes, said this case isn't about the shield law at all — just about issuing a subpoena to a witness.