The New York State Court of Appeals has ruled that reporter Jana Winter does not have to reveal her sources for a story that contained potentially sensitive information about the accused gunman in the Aurora mass theater shooting.
A Colorado judge demanded that Winter, a New York-based reporter for the Fox News Channel, tell the court how she learned of a notebook that suspect James Holmes sent to his psychiatrist.
Winters mentioned in a television report that the notebook contained images depicting violence. Pressure mounted on the reporter to reveal her sources based on the argument that whoever told Winter about the notebook may have violated the court’s gag order put in place right after the 2012 shooting. But since no one has come forward to admit being Winter's informant, there's also concern that someone may have lied regarding Holmes and could, therefore, lack credibility as a witness.
Winter has remained adamant in her refusal to reveal her sources and, as a possible punishment, faced jail time as.
A lower court in New York had issued an earlier ruling that was in agreement with the Colorado judge who demanded that Winter testify. But the New York Appeals Court in a recent 4-to-3 ruling overturned the lower court decision.
Defense Attorney and former prosecutor Karen Steinhauser has been watching this case unfold and says this decision is very rare. She points out that both states are defending constitionally-protected rights. New York is protecting the right of a free press; Colorado is protecting the right to a fair trial.
"You have a number of different interests -- all constitutional interests, constitutional rights -- and you have a conflict between the orders in two different states," Steinhauser said.
She says typically an appeals court in one state trumps a lower court in another, but she says depending how the Colorado court reacts to the New York decision, this case could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.