Ruling delayed on reporter’s sources in theater shooting case
CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) – The judge in the Colorado theater shooting case delayed a decision Wednesday on whether to compel a Fox News reporter to disclose her sources for a story she wrote last year.
In the article, New York-based reporter Jana Winter cited anonymous law-enforcement sources who said shooting suspect James Holmes sent violent drawings to a University of Colorado, Denver psychiatrist before the attack.
Holmes’ lawyers want to know the names of the law enforcement officials who spoke to Winter. They argue the leak violated a gag order and could weaken the credibility of those officials if they are called to testify in a trial.
On Wednesday, they asked Judge Carlos Samour Jr. to require Winter to disclose her sources. But Samour said he wouldn’t decide until he eventually rules on whether the notebook will be admitted as evidence in the case.
Winter argues she should not have to identify her sources under Colorado and New York shield laws that protect reporters’ sources under some circumstances. She was required to appear in court Wednesday and remains under subpoena until Aug. 19.
Holmes, who had been a student at the university, is charged with fatally shooting 12 people and injuring 70 at a movie theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora on July 20. A judge has entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Defense attorney Rebecca Higgs suggested Wednesday that police officers may have lied under oath when they denied speaking to Winter about the notebook’s contents. That was sufficient reason to require Winter to testify, Higgs said.
Higgs said the issue is whether a law enforcement officer decided to “flat-out lie.”
Aurora police Det. Alton Reed took the stand again and said he spoke only to another Aurora police department member about what he saw in the notebook. That person has already testified that he did not speak to Winter.
The judge on Wednesday also ordered both sides not to refer to any plea negotiations in any future court filings.
Ken Paulson, president of the First Amendment Center, which advocates for free speech and a free press, said Winter’s reporting served the public interest.
“Jana Winter’s reporting was important because it shed light on whether a public university had overlooked clear signals that the public was in danger,” Paulson said. “What could be of greater public interest than that?”
If the judge orders Winter to reveal her sources and she refuses, she could be jailed.
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