Journalists Avoid Contempt Citations in Texas, Ireland
Reporters in Indiana team of phone records subpoena after carrier has complied
Journalists in the United States and abroad who faced jail time for refusing to disclose confidential information obtained in highly controversial interviews were not forced to reveal such information in two recent cases.
In an unrelated case, a newspaper was notified of a subpoena for its phone records when it already was too late to challenge the subpoena.
CBS PRODUCER, ANCHOR FIGHT SUBPOENAS IN TEXAS TRIAL
In exchange for release from liability under contempt charges leveled against a news producer, CBS agreed to turn over the complete transcript of an interview with one of the men charged in the Tune 1998 dragging death of a black man in Jasper, Texas.
In mid-November, prosecutors in the apparently racially motivated capital-murder case obtained a complete transcript of the interview between Shawn Allen Berry and CBS anchor Dan Rather, after an agreement was reached between the prosecutors and CBS to drop contempt charges against CBS producer Mary Mapes. Mapes had refused to turn over outtakes of the "60 Minutes 11" interview and was subsequently held in contempt and sentenced to jail by a Texas court.
Mapes was subpoenaed and ordered to appear before a state trial court in Jasper and to bring with her outtakes and unedited portions of the interview between Rather and Berry. Berry faces a charge of murder for the death of James Byrd Jr. Mapes challenged the subpoena on the grounds that she never possessed or controlled the tapes.
Mapes avoided any jail time as a result of the agreement reached between the prosecutors and CBS.
Rather also was subpoenaed in late October to testify at Berry's murder trial. However, in early November, a New York City trial judge heard arguments from CBS objecting to the demand for Rather's testimony. Prosecutors subsequently dropped their.request for Rather's presence at the trial.
Berry admitted in the September 1999 interview that he was present on the road where Byrd was chained to the bumper of a pickup truck, but said he could not stop John William King and Lawrence Russell Brewer from beating Byrd because he was threatened by King when he tried to help Byrd. (Texas v. Berry)
IRISH COURT OVERTURNS CONTEMPT CHARGE
An Irish appellate court dismissed contempt charges against a journalist who faced jail time if he refused to turn over notes from an interview with a man charged with the 1989 murder of a prominent attorney for the Irish Republican Army.
The High Court in Belfast in late October threw out contempt charges against Dublin Sunday Tribune editor Ed Moloney, who refused to surrender his notes from the interview.
"The Lord Chief justice has made it quite clear that the police have got to establish a case for needing to see journalistic material," Moloney said in an article that appeared in the Irish Times the day after the ruling. "They can't just wade in there and automatically assume they can get it."
Moloney, who faced a jail term of up to five years and unlimited fines …
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Publication information: Article title: Journalists Avoid Contempt Citations in Texas, Ireland. Contributors: Not available. Magazine title: News Media and the Law. Volume: 24. Issue: 1 Publication date: Winter 2000. Page number: 17+. © Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Fall 2008. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.