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New York appeals court protects reporter from revealing sources

Dec. 10, 2013 at 10:45 PM   |   Comments

NEW YORK, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- A reporter who refused to reveal sources for her exclusive Aurora theater massacre story does not have to appear in Colorado, a New York court said Tuesday.

The Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York state, reversed a lower court order that Jana Winters, a reporter for FoxNews.com, would have to appear before a judge in Colorado next month, FoxNews.com reported. Colorado's shield law for journalists is weaker than New York's, and Winters would presumably have had to disclose her sources for an exclusive story about a notebook James Holmes, who faces multiple murder charges, sent his psychiatrist before the 2012 shootings that left 12 people dead and dozens wounded.

Fox News Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Roger Ailes hailed the ruling as a big victory for the news business.

"Today's ruling is a major win for all journalists," he said in a statement issued by Fox News. "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."

The ruling was 4-3. The majority ruled New York law should apply because a New York court issued the subpoena, sought by Holmes' attorneys. Justice Robert Smith, in a dissenting opinion, said the majority appeared to have concluded the New York law should protect New York journalists anywhere in the world.

"This seems to me an excessive expansion of New York's jurisdiction, one that is unlikely to be honored by other states or countries or to attain the predictability that the majority says is its goal," he wrote.

Dori Ann Hanswirth, Winters' lead attorney, said her client had been facing the possibility of going to jail for more than a year.

"Confidential newsgathering is essential for investigative journalism to flourish, and the New York Court of Appeals has issued a broad decision protecting all New York-based journalists," Hanswirth added. "Today's victory is as much for Jana Winter as it is for all journalists and the public, which has a right to receive news from confidential sources."

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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