Fight on to shield sources in Aurora shootings

Fox News: Reporter protected by law from forced revelation

DENVER – A Fox News Channel reporter will fight any attempt to force her to reveal her sources for a story about Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes, the reporter’s lawyer said in a letter made public Thursday.

Holmes’ attorneys are trying to force reporter Jana Winter to disclose her sources for the story, which described the contents of a notebook that Holmes sent to a psychiatrist. Winter’s story cited unidentified law-enforcement officials.

Also Thursday, Holmes’ lawyers disputed a claim by Winter’s attorney that they had made no attempt to contact Fox. Holmes’ lawyers said they made numerous attempts.

Holmes’ lawyers say whoever told Winter about the notebook violated a gag order imposed by Judge William Sylvester, and they want Sylvester to punish the person responsible.

Holmes is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder in the July 20 shootings, which left 12 dead and 70 injured.

After numerous investigators testified under oath that they did not speak to Winter, Holmes’ lawyers said they wanted to subpoena Winter to force her to identify her sources.

Winter’s lawyer, Dori Ann Hanswirth, said in a Jan. 29 letter to Holmes’ attorneys that shield laws in New York and Colorado protect Winter from demands to reveal her sources.

“We urge the defense to abandon its pursuit of testimony from Ms. Winter,” the letter said.

Hanswirth sent a copy of the letter to prosecutors, who submitted it to the judge in a motion.

Predicting the outcome of attempts to learn the identity of unnamed sources is difficult because the facts vary from case to case, said Gregg Leslie, legal defense director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

“This case has been particularly troublesome because there has been a reflexive move to seal everything,” Leslie said. “You often see your biggest leaks when there’s too much of an attempt to clamp down on things.”

Hanswirth’s letter accused Holmes’ lawyers of misleading the judge when they said in a court document they had tried to contact Fox News.

Hanswirth’s wrote that there had been no such attempt. She called the assertion a “misrepresentation” and “highly inappropriate” and demanded an explanation.

Holmes’ lawyers filed a motion Thursday insisting they had made about 24 attempts to reach Winter, Fox or the network’s legal department.

Neither Hanswirth nor Fox responded immediately to requests for comment.