Tuesday, December 10, 2013

NY Appellate Court Upholds Journalist's Right to Protect Source

- an increasingly rare instance of good news:


"New York's top court today spared FoxNews.com reporter Jana Winter from jail for refusing to reveal confidential sources for a bombshell story following the Aurora movie massacre.

In a 4-3 ruling based on New York's shield law, the state Court of Appeals reversed a lower court's decision that could have resulted in Winter being forced to appear in the Colorado murder trial of James Holmes.

"... an order from a New York court directing a reporter to appear in another state where, as here, there is a substantial likelihood that she will be compelled to identify sources who have been promised confidentiality would offend our strong public policy," the decision, handed down Tuesday, read.

The ruling spares Winter from appearing before Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour Jr. on Jan. 3, where she would have been ordered to reveal who told her about a chilling notebook gunman James Holmes sent to his psychiatrist before the shooting in July 2012. Winter's exclusive story on July 25, 2012, was picked up by news outlets around the world. Winter had steadfastly vowed that she would go to jail rather than reveal her sources for the story.

"Today's ruling is a major win for all journalists," said Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. "The protection of Jana Winter's confidential sources was necessary for the survival of journalism and democracy as a whole. We are very grateful that the highest court in New York State agreed with our position."

Winter's lead attorney, Dori Ann Hanswirth, said the veteran journalist was finally freed from the specter of jail, which had hung over her head for more than a year. She said journalists must be able to afford their sources protection if they are to serve the public interest......"

Even though I had read about the New York State "shield law" a few months ago, I still was concerned about the outcome of this case. Judges in our era are far-too-often willing to bend to political pressure. In this particular case, I sensed that a lot of powerful people wanted the source divulged. 

Slaughters committed by firearms, unlike other violent acts (and urban gun crime), are choice selections of the political establishment. I hold that the Arapahoe Country judge may well have been under pressure from many Colorado legislators and prosecutors/district attorneys to locate the source of the leak and make sure that no one else even considered doing the same in the future. 

Colorado, was the second state to enact severely. restrictive gun laws after the sandy Hook slaughter. The first weapons ban that followed, in New York State, was directed primarily towards the actual types of firearms and magazines, but Colorado legislators created a law that had far greater restrictions and implications. From what I understand of the new legislation, the act of handing a rifle to a friend who was visiting someone in order to hunt (or target shoot) on his private property became an illegal act.
The anti-gun lobby wants to have us believe that no one can ever tell when someone will pick up a weapon and ammunition and commence to murdering people - that position is one of their reasons that they cite to justify further restrictions. The existence of a news report that the Aurora slaughter, one of their flagship cases that they use to advance the cause to disarmament, is a serious blow to their agenda as we now know that this horrific indecent had a tangible chain of events leading up to it. They can no longer cite the Aurora case while feeling free that their "proofs" cannot be refuted. 

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