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Judge's Retribution?; Pool Photographer at Murder Trial Replaced after His Newspaper Refuses to Sell the Judge Copies of Unpublished Trial Photos

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Judge's Retribution?; Pool Photographer at Murder Trial Replaced after His Newspaper Refuses to Sell the Judge Copies of Unpublished Trial Photos

Article excerpt

JOHN BURGESS, THE pool photographer who shot the controversial photo of convicted kidnap-murderer Richard Allen Davis giving the finger to the media, was suddenly replaced by the court following a spat over the judge's request for his unpublished pictures.

Judy Peterson, the court's media coordinator, said she switched the pool assignment to the Associated Press after her failure to obtain the outtakes from Burgess' employer, the Santa Rosa, Calif., Press Democrat.

"l got tired of dealing with them," Peterson said in an interview.

"I did them a favor in the first place by letting Burgess in when my first choice had been AP."

Following the conviction in the high-profile trial in San jose Superior Court, the jury on Aug. 5 voted the death sentence for Davis in the kidnap-slaying of 12-year-old Polly Klaas in Sonoma County, the Press Democrat's home territory. AP photographer Paul Sakuma represented the pool for the penalty verdict.

Peterson said the trial judge, Thomas Hastings, sought Burgess' unpublished pictures - about 37 in all - to determine if any of the jurors had been caught on film - but also as souvenirs of the trial.

"Judge Hastings wanted them for the court clerk and the bailiff as gifts and he might have ordered one for himself," Peterson said. She added that, along with her request, she left her Visa card number to pay for negatives or prints with the Press Democrat.

Peterson said she was unable to make a live contact at the newspaper in a week of trying by phone, but conceded that managing editor Bob Swofford left her a voice mail message saying the Press Democrat did not release unpublished pictures to the public.

Burgess, who covered the trial from the first day. said he had given Peterson the same information.

"I told her she could have any pictures we published or that went over the [AP] wire. eight in all." he recalled. "We would not release anything from our files."

Added Swofford: "People often ask us for unpublished pictures for their own use and we refuse. …

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