By Keith Coffman
DENVER, April 10 A Fox News reporter returned to
a Colorado courtroom on Wednesday for a hearing on whether she
should be compelled to reveal anonymous sources cited in a story
about the July 2012 massacre of a dozen people in a suburban
Denver movie theater.
The outcome of the proceedings were inconclusive, however,
and the judge put off a decision on the matter for at least four
New York-based journalist Jana Winter is fighting a subpoena
calling for her to testify about her sources for an article that
said the accused theater gunman, James Holmes, sent a notebook
to a psychiatrist detailing his plans to commit mass murder.
Holmes' public defenders are demanding that prosecutors be
sanctioned for leaks of the information to the media, arguing
that whoever provided the information violated a gag order in
the case and undermined their client's right to a fair trial.
Citing two law enforcement sources, the story appeared five
days after prosecutors say Holmes opened fire inside an Aurora,
Colorado, multiplex during a midnight screening of Batman film
"The Dark Knight Rises," killing 12 moviegoers and wounding 58
Holmes, 25, is charged with multiple counts of first-degree
murder and attempted murder. Prosecutors announced last week
they will seek the death penalty for the California native if he
Winter said in an affidavit that if she were compelled to
divulge the names of the sources, her reputation in the industry
would be "irreparably tarnished."
"If I am forced to reveal the identities of persons whom I
have promised to shield from public exposure, simply put, I will
be unable to function effectively in my profession, and my
career will be over," she wrote.
In a hearing on the issue last week, Winter's lawyer argued
that the court had not exhausted all possible remedies to trace
the origin of the leak, short of ordering Winter to testify, a
requirement under Colorado's reporter shield law.
POLICE DENY LEAKING INFORMATION
Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour Jr. agreed and
ordered Aurora police detective Alton Reed, who previously
denied under oath that he was a source of the leak, to take the
stand Wednesday and testify as to whether he told anyone about
the notebook who may have then leaked its contents.
Reed said he discussed the notebook in general terms with
another police officer who was drafting a warrant but did not
share information gleaned from his investigation with anyone
else. Several other police investigators denied under oath in
December that they had leaked information.
After Reed's testimony, Holmes' lawyer, Rebecca Higgs, said
someone in law enforcement must have lied about not disclosing
sealed information and urged the judge to force Winter to
disclose her sources.
Winter's reporting was "not a noble act," Higgs said,
because she knew there was a gag order in place, and Holmes'
right to a fair trial trumps Winter's free-speech rights.
But Samour, who took over the case last week, said he would
not force Winter to testify until and unless the notebook, which
is under seal, becomes evidence in the case.
"I need to know whether the notebook will be admitted or
not," he said. "I can't speculate."
The judge deferred ruling on the issue and ordered Winter
back to court in August.
Prosecutors have not been directly implicated in connection
with the leak and have remained largely silent on the matter.
Representatives of the Colorado Press Association, the
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Colorado
Broadcasters Association have filed affidavits with the court on
The president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Press
Club, Angela Greiling Keane, issued a statement calling on the
judge to drop the issue.
"If anonymous sources believe their identities can be
dredged up in court, they will be less likely to disclose to the
press information of vital public importance," she said.