By Stephanie Bertorelli
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
Writers, specifically journalists, are protected from revealing their sources. This should never be debated or questioned – they are protected under the law from divulging their sources.
So then why do courts continue to try to break the will of a reporter by threatening jail time if they do not comply?
Let me reiterate, reporter’s privilege, simply put ,means that no one, including the courts, can compel a journalist to reveal their anonymous source for a story.
So why are the courts in Colorado threatening Fox News reporter, Jana Winter, with jail time if she does not reveal her source with regards to the Colorado Movie Theater shooting case? They don’t really want her in jail; they want to go after the person (or persons) that revealed this information to her.
As it is in many high profile cases, the defense for James Holmes is looking to shift some of the focus of his horrific crime to the police officers and other law enforcement officials who had to clean up the horrific mess he left in his wake.
Let me try to wrap my head around this.
James Holmes walked into an Aurora, Colorado movie theater (chosen because they DID NOT allow concealed weapons on site), and opened fire in a midnight showing of the Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.
Jana Winter, who was in Colorado covering the shooting, found out from her sources that the suspect had sent a notebook detailing ideas for a plan like this to a psychiatrist ahead of time (complete with a stick figure shooting other stick figures).
Winter wrote her story and drew immediate attention from James Holmes’ attorneys. They accused the government of violating various gag orders that Arapahoe County District Court Judge William Sylvester had issued in the days following the shooting and asserted that the disclosures would prevent their client from getting a fair trial.
I’m sorry, WHAT?!
Your client walks into a theater, dressed in tactical clothing, opens fire, kills 12 people, injures 58 others, appears in court following the massacre with dyed orange hair and you’re worried that a notebook might impair his ability to get a fair trial?
Are you freaking kidding me?
The notebook in question in the Jana Winters case is not even an issue at this point – having been ruled inadmissible by a judge last fall (it had been sent to and discussed with his psychiatrist, it was covered under doctor-patient confidentiality). Even prosecutors have given up trying gain access to the notebook.
So, with little else in their own arsenal, Holmes’ defense team decided to take aim at law enforcement officials in hopes to save their client. How? By firing warning shots at Jana Winter.
Jana Winter’s sources are protected by law as is her ability to keep their identity secret. She is currently fighting a subpoena that would require her to appear in an Aurora courtroom, produce her notes and reveal her sources.