Fox Reporter Wins Court Battle Over Sources

Image: Fox Reporter Wins Court Battle Over Sources Jana Winter

Wednesday, 28 May 2014 07:40 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the lawyers for Colorado movie theater shooting suspect James Holmes that could have compelled a Fox reporter to reveal her sources, Fox News reported.

Earlier, New York State's highest court had ruled that the reporter, who is based in New York, could not be forced to testify in Colorado. New York state has a law that protects reporters from revealing their sources while Colorado does not, Fox reported.

Holmes has pleaded insanity in the shooting attack in which 12 people were killed and dozens injured. His public defenders demanded to know who had told Fox reporter Jana Winter that Holmes had purportedly written to a psychiatrist prior to the attack outlining how he intended to carry it out.

The attorneys said Winter's sources had violated a gag order making it difficult for Holmes to get a fair trial. If he is to avoid a possible death penalty, the suspect's lawyers must establish that Holmes was insane at the time of the shootings.

In commenting on the Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case and entertain efforts to compel the reporter to reveal her sources, a Denver Post editorial stated: "The notebook, which prosecutors could use in trying to prove Holmes was sane and planned the shootings, is crucial evidence. But a public outing of law enforcement sources who told Winter of its contents would not seem to advance the defense's cause."

Advocates for journalists say reporters need to be able to assure their sources of confidentiality in order to do their jobs, according to Fox.

"We're pleased that the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of free speech today. The court made it clear that Jana Winter can never be compelled to testify in Colorado, and that all New York-based journalists and media companies can rely on New York's strong shield law when they are covering news across the country," Fox News said in a statement.

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