Reporter allowed to keep sources secret in Colorado theater shooting

James Holmes and his defense attorney Daniel King (R) sit in court for an advisement hearing at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial, Colorado June 4, 2013. Credit: Reuters
James Holmes and his defense attorney Daniel King sit in court for an advisement hearing at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial, Colo., in June. Credit: Reuters

A Fox News reporter will not have to divulge the confidential sources who provided information for her story on the 2012 mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater, New York’s highest court ruled on Tuesday.

New York State’s Court of Appeals said that ordering Manhattan-based reporter Jana Winter to testify in a Colorado court, where she would be asked to reveal her sources, would undermine New York’s long history of freedom of the press.

“Safeguarding the anonymity of those who provide information in confidence is perhaps the core principle of New York’s journalistic privilege, as is evident from our colonial tradition, the constitutional text and the legislative history of the shield law,” Judge Victoria Graffeo wrote for the court.

Tuesday’s 6-1 decision reversed a lower court ruling.

The case in question was the July 2012 shooting spree at a suburban Denver cinema in which 12 moviegoers were killed and dozens more injured during a midnight screening of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.” James Holmes, 25, is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

As part of their investigation, police took possession of a notebook Holmes had mailed to a psychiatrist shortly before the shootings. The judge handling the case subsequently issued a gag order barring police and attorneys from divulging the contents of the notebook to the public.

The day the order was issued, Fox News published an online story by Winter claiming the notebook was “full of details about how [Holmes] was going to kill people.” The article indicated that two unnamed law enforcement officials had shared the information with Winter.

Holmes’ attorneys moved to sanction the officials responsible for the leak. The 14 officials who had knowledge of the notebook’s contents all denied speaking with Winter, according to the Court of Appeals.

As a result, Holmes sought to compel Winter to testify about her sources. Because she lives and works in New York, the application was made in state court in Manhattan.

Holmes’ attorneys maintained that any issues related to the exposure of confidential sources should be decided under Colorado’s shield law, which allows judges to order reporters to disclose sources if it is deemed “material and necessary.”

New York’s stricter shield law bars its courts from forcing a reporter to reveal confidential sources.

Winter argued that New York’s more expansive law applied, and that being ordered to testify would result in the end of her career as a journalist or, if she refused, her incarceration.

Attorneys involved in the case did not return requests for comment. Fox News did not immediately comment on the ruling.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Is #JusticeForAvaLynn a case of bullying?

On Saturday, the hashtag #JusticeForAvaLynn became one of the trending topics on Twitter. Users circulated the above photo of 5-year-old AvaLynn, posted by her mother…

International

Terrorism could spread to US and Europe in…

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said terrorism would soon spread to Europe and the United States unless it is quickly dealt with in the Middle East,…

National

Ex-Bitcoin official to plead guilty to Silk Road…

Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem has reached a plea deal to resolve U.S. charges that he engaged in a scheme to sell over $1 million of…

International

China's army changes tactics to prepare for war…

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said China will spur military innovation and called on the army to create a new strategy for "information warfare" as…

Gossip

Joan Rivers on life support: Report

TMZ reports that comedian Joan Rivers has been placed on life support, "completely reliant on machines to stay alive." Rivers has been hospitalized since she…

Movies

What's new on Netflix in September

September has a supernatural theme for Netflix. UFO "documentaries" and the survivalist reality series "Doomsday Preppers" are among the new series coming to the online…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Wellbeing

VIDEO: Still not wearing sunscreen? You will after…

Sunscreen is possibly the most often repeated - and ignored - piece of skincare advice. But Thomas Leveritt took a different tactic. With a short…

Food

Twitter used to track down sources of food…

When Chicago health officials saw Twitter users complaining about local food poisoning episodes, they reached out on Twitter to those users and often ended up…

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…