Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kansas reporter gets temporary reprieve from order directing her to testify, reveal sources

UPDATE 1/22: Despite the court's Tuesday ruling, O'Brien was subpoenaed on Wednesday by Malone as a potential witness in the murder trial. "This subpoena is basically a blatant attempt by the county attorney and the judge to do an end run-around the Supreme Court's stay," O'Brien told the Associated Press. Malone said the subpoena was normal for any potential witness in a trial and had nothing to do with the temporary stay. (Read more)

Yesterday, the Kansas State Supreme Court granted a Dodge City Globe reporter's request to temporarily stay an order requiring her to reveal a confidential source to Ford County prosecutors. Clair O'Brien was scheduled to appear today before an inquisition at which prosecutors would force her to source's identity and content of unpublished notes regarding her interview with Samuel Bonilla, who is charged with second-degree murder in a Labor Day shooting death, The Associated Press reports.

"The newspaper has challenged the subpoena on the grounds that forcing O'Brien to testify would violate her First Amendment rights and hurt her ability to gather news," AP reports. O'Brien maintains she has already told Ford County Attorney Terry Malone what Bonilla told her during the jailhouse interview, when she called the prosecutor for comment. Malone also wants O'Brien to reveal confidential sources who said "one of the victims had 'a base of support that is well-known for its anti-Hispanic beliefs' and has a supply of semiautomatic weapons," AP reports.

O'Brien told AP, "It is not so much about whether I win, but whether the government is allowed to have so much influence on the ability of the press to report without fear or intimidation." (Read more)

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