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Broadcasters hand over tapes after losing subpoena battle

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
Broadcasters hand over tapes after losing subpoena battle 05/19/97 NEW YORK--In early May, WNBC News in New York City and…

Broadcasters hand over tapes after losing subpoena battle

05/19/97

NEW YORK–In early May, WNBC News in New York City and Channel 12 News Long Island complied with the order of a county court in Riverhead to provide copies of outtakes from their interviews with a woman on trial for murder. The broadcasters had fought the subpoenas, but the judge found the material relevant after an in camera review.

In separate interviews with the broadcasters at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in early March, Keila Pulinario admitted to shooting and killing Imagio Santana. Two days later the Suffolk County District Attorney subpoenaed the broadcasters to provide all videotape of their interviews. Although the broadcasters agreed to turn over copies of videotaped material which had been broadcast, they declined to provide the outtakes on the grounds that they had a qualified privilege based on the First Amendment and the state constitution and shield law. The broadcasters moved to quash the subpoena in mid-March.

The trial court denied the motion to quash in late March and also ordered the broadcasters to submit all outtakes for in camera review. The order was affirmed in late April by a state appellate court in Brooklyn.

After reviewing the tapes, the county court found that the interviews with Pulinario were both “critical and necessary to a fair and complete adjudication of the trial” and ordered the broadcasters to submit copies of the tapes for the defense and prosecution.

The court noted that the broadcasters undertook no “investigative efforts” in the matter, and the interviews were initiated by Pulinario. The judge also ruled that because the prosecutor has the burden of proof, he must be accorded “some latitude” in obtaining evidence to prove his case.

In their motion to quash the subpoena, the broadcasters argued that other statements made by Pulinario while in police custody as well as the testimony of the two corrections officers who were present during the interviews would provide alternative sources for the information contained on the subpoenaed videotape. (New York v. Pulinario; Media Counsel: Alisa Shudofsky, Robert Callagy, New York)