Fox reporter Jana Winter doesn’t have to testify in Colorado

New York State Court of Appeals

There exists “no principle more fundamental or well-established than the right of a reporter to refuse to divulge a confidential source,” New York’s State Court of Appeals said in an decision Tuesday. The 4-3 decision means Fox News reporter Jana Winter will not have to travel to Colorado to testify in James Holmes’ murder trial.

“We therefore conclude that an order from a New York court directing a reporter to appear in another state where, as here, there is a substantial likelihood that she will be compelled to identify sources who have been promised confidentiality would offend our strong public policy — a common law, statutory and constitutional tradition that has played a significant role in this State becoming the media capital of the country if not the world,” Judge Victoria A. Graffeo wrote in the majority opinion.

Winter obtained a notebook that belonged to Holmes, who is accused of carrying out a mass shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. Holmes’ attorneys hoped to force her to testify to the source of her leak. A New York judge upheld a subpoena for Winter in August.

In a dissent, Judge Robert S. Smith wrote that “I do not think this is a proper case, however, because the allegedly privileged communications took place wholly in Colorado, and the New York Shield Law does not apply to them.” But in her opinion, Graffeo wrote that “New York journalists should not have to consult the law in the jurisdiction where a source is located or where a story ‘breaks’ (assuming either is ascertainable) in order to determine whether they can issue a binding promise of confidentiality.”

“Today, Jana Winter is finally free from the threat of jail that has been hanging over her head for more than a year,” Winter’s attorney Dori Ann Hanswirth told Fox News. “New York’s highest court has ruled that she does not have to appear in Colorado to disclose her confidential sources. New York is the news capital of the country and the world.”

“Today’s ruling is a major win for all journalists,” Fox News CEO Roger Ailes said in a statement emailed to Poynter. “The protection of Jana Winter’s confidential sources was necessary for the survival of journalism and democracy as a whole. We are very grateful that the highest court in New York State agreed with our position.”

Previously: N.Y. court to consider whether Fox News reporter should testify in Colorado

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  • Peter913

    To me it all was about harassing Fox News; a political attack by the enemy from within. And now the enemy will continue to load the courts until they have it their way.

  • pvbella

    I wholly agree with the ruling. But, what if Colorado authorities push the case, holds her in contempt, and issues an arrest warrant?

  • Lucy Dalglish

    This is a very important decision that strongly endorses the principle that reporters should be allowed to protect confidential sources. If only every state was as protective of a free press as New York.

  • HairyLongProng

    if it was from Fox News…it was most likely a lie anyway… When the GOP shut down the government, I tuned into Fox news to see their spin on it..and across the screen in giant white letters it said “OBAMAS SHUTDOWN”.. That’s all I had to see..gave me a good laugh to watch those news reporters keeping a straight face while lying to their viewers…