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JRN 301 Reporter's Privilege

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Adam Hurst

on 21 April 2010

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Transcript of JRN 301 Reporter's Privilege


Shield Laws: Protect journalists from eing found in contempt of court for refusing to reveal a source (Traeger, 369). 36 states and D.C. have shield laws that recognize and protect reporters privilege. Journalists involved in federals cases left to use qualified reporter’s privilege. Those states without shield laws follow the qualified privileges based. Reporter’s privilege: a tenuous and qualified privilege which allows journalists the right to keep information confidential. Qualified because it depends on several conditions being met (Traeger, 361), which was established by a three part test to determine under what circumstances the qualified privilege may exist. This test stems from a U.S. Supreme Court case Branzburg v. Hayes. U.S. Supreme Court case Branzburg v. Hayes 1972

-Branzburg wrote about illegal drug use and sales in Louisville, KY area, promising people he wrote about he would maintain their anonymity. Claimed First Amendment and free press clause, shouldnt be required to reveal confidential information given circumstances of case (Traeger, 362).

-However, a 5-4 majority of Supreme Court rejected idea of First Amendment privilege for journalists. "The importance of obtaining evidence is critical to that reporter who may be in possession of the evidence" (Traeger, 362).

-Justice Powell concurred "the limited nature" of the Court's holding. Suggesting any journalists privilege to withhold infomration should be evaluated case by case. A refusla to provide information might be permitted if the information was not relevant to an investigation or failed to serve " a legitimate need of law enforcement" (Traeger, 362).

Powell's opinion interpreted by Lower courts to adopt a three part Branzburg test, determining whether the privlege survives.
- 1. probable cause to believe that the reporter has information clearly relevant to a specific violation of law,
-2. that the information sought cannot be obtained by alternative means less destructive of First Amendment values.
-3. that there is a compelling and overriding interest in the information.
(Traeger, 363) Journalists may receive subpoenas that require them to reveal information in judicial proceedings (including divulging sources of information). Those who do not comply with a subpoena including journalists who are denied reporter’s privilege are subject to contempt of court citations resulting in jail and or fines. (Traeger, 368) Reporters Privilege and Shield Laws: Currently there are no federal shield laws.... September 2002:
Miller reported on the interception of metal tubes bound for Iraq.
-Citing unnamed "Bush administration officials" who claim that Iraq’s plan to "step up its quest for nuclear weapons”

-Miller quoted unnamed "American officials" and "American intelligence experts" saying the tubes were intended to be used to enrich nuclear material.

-Following article’s publication, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld appeared on television and pointed to Miller's story as a contributory motive for going to war.

-Miller would later claim, based only on second-hand statements from the military unit she was embedded with, that WMDs had been found in Iraq. Later, proving to be false.

-While employed by NY Times, Miller was given more leniency than other reporters due to her consistent delivery of front page stories for the Times, with top-ranking sources.

-Miller’s journalism had come under criticism with accusations she was a co-conspirator for the Bush administration. Amid speculation, she left the NY Times in November ’05, following her convicted involvement in a CIA leak of Valerie Plame.

July 6. 2003: Former ambassador Joseph Wilson published an Op-Ed in the Times criticizing the Bush administration for "twisting" intelligence to justify war in Iraq.

July 8, 2003 Miller met with an unnamed government official, later revealed to be I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff.

July 14, 2003: Robert Novak revealed in a column, the name of CIA employee Valerie Plame, wife of Joseph Wilson.

July 2005: After reportedly being in possession of evidence relevant to the CIA leak, Miller was held in contempt of court for refusing to reveal her sources claiming “reporter’s privilege”.

-Miller was sentenced to three months in jail

Facts of the Case:

-Bonilla not a U.S. citizen, had his licensed .22 caliber gun, legal under Kansas open carry law, gave to his 15 year old son to hold.

-Bonilla shot and killed Steven Holt while injuring Tanner Brunson from gunshot wounds following confrontation along riverbed outside Dodge City.

- Bonilla turned himself into authorities after the incident and was questioned and released only to be arrested a few days later on second-degree murder charges.

-In court, charges were raised from manslaughter to 2nd degree murder.

-Bonilla's plea bargain was against the advice of his attorney, due to the evident racism shown towards hispanics by law enforcement in the area, he didn’t believe he would get a fair trial.

-Bonilla agreed February 23rd to a plea bargain that reduced charges against him from second-degree murder to voluntary manslaughter, after initially claiming he acted in self-defense.

-County Attorney Terry Malone restricted the introduction of evidence to the jury such as the blood toxicology report and Steven Holt’s vulgar and racially charged tattoo’s.

Dodge City, a population of 26,101, according to 2006 US Census estimates, is home to substantial Latino population (43% of the population).

According to local Latino community leaders, there is strong anti-Hispanic sentiment by some of the city’s population.

In a district with Latino enrollment of 80% and only one (the first) on the school board, there are no Latinos on the county board or city commission. Samuel Bonilla: Business owner of a martial arts studio and legal resident immigrant to Dodge City, Kansas for two decades. A blackbelt and grappler (ground fighter), Bonilla (5'6) is a former bounty hunter and due to the heavy amount of racial crimes in the area, carries with him a 22 caliber pistol, which is legal under Kansas’ open carry law.

Steven Holt (35), Tanner Brunson (21): Two men with extensive criminal records. One of the men, Tanner Brunson, was reported to be affiliated with the Aryan Brotherhood.



Monday September 7, 2009:
-Sam Bonilla(40) along with son Jovanny (15) and nephew Levvy Treto (17) exercising along Arkansas River Bed, just west of downtown Dodge City.

-Brunson driving Chevy Blazer with Holt and three teenagers (two of which were Holt's children), Cherokee (16) and Michael Holt (18).

-Bonilla contests they had been victims of a racially charged hate-crime game called "Boarder Patrol", where they were "run off the road." Bonilla yelled at the truck to "watch out" as it passed. Witness testified that Holt had a two-word vulgar expression tattooed on his arms, and that he had raised his arms while in the vehicle.

-Brunson admitted to have already consumed seven beers, while Holt had "well more than that". Brunson stopped the car after Holt told him to because he wanted to "see what the problem was".

-Jovanny (15) was carrying Mr. Bonilla's .22 Caliber gun and gave it to him as the two men go out of the vehicle. After arguing with the two men, Bonilla drew his gun warning them to stand back. Holt came at Bonilla with a closed fist as Bonilla fired two shots at Holt and Brunson. Brunson tried to run as Bonilla shot a third and fourth time hitting him in the shoulder. Tossing the gun, Bonilla and boys ran as Holt and Brunson fell. Brunson survived the gunshot wounds, while Steven Holt died.

-Later that night, Bonilla turned himself into authorities after the incident and was questioned for seven hours and was released, only to be arrested a few days later on second-degree murder charges. Confidential Sources:

Claire O’Brien: A reporter for the Dodge Daily Globe was approached by a bail bondswoman, Rebecca Escalante.
Asked to help Sam Bonilla, accused of murdering one man and wounding another, tell his story from jail. O'Brien agreed to listen.

The story published Oct. 13 contained Bonilla's side and also included claims from Escalante that she would have bonded Bonilla out if she and others didn't believe he would be in danger.

The story went one step further, containing a confidential source that said the man whom Bonilla wounded "has a base of support that is well-known for its anti-Hispanic beliefs." The same source said he had seen evidence that the wounded man's support base "has a supply of semi-automatic weapons. "I don't mind telling you that I basically don't have the heart to discuss this case anymore. I don't think I've read one wholly accurate (although a few have come close) news account of any aspect of Mr. Bonilla's case, and stories about my own involvement in it have actually caused me to question the integrity of American journalism.

Both professional reporters and students have consistently disregarded my clearly expressed points, and have chosen instead to accept the version of my role put forth by GateHouse Media .

I never thought I'd say this, and I just lost my job in order to protect its rights, but I don't trust the American press anymore.

I can tell you, though, that corporate pressure on reporters to sell each other out in exchange for a few more months of "job security" has done far more to chill First Amendment free press rights than have all the subpoenas in the nation combined."

-Claire O'Brien March 8, 2009: Claire O'Brien fired from Dodge City Daily Globe

-Newspaper's corporate owners had refused to pay for her legal representation and scuttled her efforts to find independent legal help unless she testified claims that GateHouse Media Kansas Holdings, which owns the newspaper, has denied.

-Management gave her 30 minutes notice to vacate her desk, no severance pay and cancelled her health insurance. O'Brien also found the locks on the building changed after the hearing, and was the only reporter not given a key.

-O'Brien said her firing on Friday from the publication was in "retaliation" for making comments public after she failed to appear at an inquisition. Specifically they were angry at her for disobeying their directive and talking to the Associated Press about how her bosses were treating her.

Yet, thanks to O'Brien, the newspaper racked up six awards in the recent Kansas Press Association's annual newspaper contest, four were on account of O'Brien's coverage of the Bonilla case.
Subponea:

-In December of '09, Ford County Attorney Terry Malone subpoenaed O'Brien, demanding she share information from her interview notes, as well as information about statements she had attributed to anonymous sources.

-In arguing O'Brien should be compelled to testify and reveal her confidential source, Malone pointed to the Branzburg case, which held that no absolute privilege existed for reporters.

"The public interest in law enforcement," the opinion says, overrides "the consequential, but uncertain, burden on newsgathering" resulting in reporters having to testify. After refusing to giveup her source, O’Brien, backed by Globe attorneys, resisted the subpoena. However, on February 2, 2010, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled against O’Brien, forcing her to testify in Bonilla’s trial.

O'Brien told AP, newspaper's owners made it "absolutely clear" that the publication would not pay for her legal help unless she testified. "I have been told that I have to betray my sources in order to get legal help."

O’Brien failed to show up on her court date, resulting O’Brien to be hit with a $1,000-per-day fine until she appeared to testify. However, after her source stepped forward on his own and revealed himself the next day, O’Brien agreed to testify at a rescheduled hearing. Judith Miller Bonilla vs. Holt Claire O'Brien City divided resulting from Biased Reporting? Hutchinson News v. Dodge Daily Globe
Fallout of Case: Tuesday April 6, 2010:

Sam Bonilla was sentanced to more than six years in prison, (74 months — 61 months for voluntary manslaughter and 13 for aggravated battery). The sentances will run consecutively. "Certain criminal records were not brought to light, along with other information about the men who attacked him," claimed Espinoza-Madrigal, who explained that such evidence would have been presented at trial." -MALDEF Attorney "Mr. Bonilla was intimidated by certain prosecutorial actions, and he was also afraid that he couldn't get a fair trial." -MALDEF Attorney National Scrutiny:
Some Dodge City residents reject race as a factor, including Holt and Brunson families. Attorneys, Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal and Diego Bernal, of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)

"Our organization has been monitoring the wave of escalating violence against Latino people across the nation, and Mr. Bonilla's case really drew our attention," Espinoza-Madrigal said. "We have no doubt that his self-defense claim is supported by the evidence, and we were prepared to offer our support. Unfortunately, the plea bargain took us by surprise." Tuesday March 30, 2010:
-In vote of support, the Kansas Legislature passed a media shield bill that, if signed by Governor Mark Parkinson (D), protects reporters in most circumstances from having to disclose the identity of anonymous sources and other information obtained in the newsgathering process.

-Additionally to defending traditional news organizations, the bill stretches shield to “online journal[s]” engaged in “the regular business of newsgathering and disseminating news or information to the public.”

-The Kansas bill offers protection based primarily on whether an individual engages in journalism, not whether he or she is a professional journalist. “I thought that the report (O’Brien’s Oct 13th article) about him[Bonilla] being in danger was mostly just an attempt by friends to gain sympathy. My view is that was a damaging story for our community. It made it a racial/cultural issue when it wasn’t. While poor judgement was displayed by the reporter, I consider Claire a friend and never issued and ill will towards her. I was saddened to see the events transpire for her as they did.”
-County Attorney Terry Malone- “A positive is in the future if something came up like this regarding reporter’s privileges, newspapers wouldn’t have to spend 50 grand like Gatehouse Media did. The shield law is going to save newspapers money because they realize the law is the law and they have to follow it.” -Terry Malone
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