Judge orders ABC to give state unaired tape

Reporter's Privilege | Feature | September 14, 1993

CALIFORNIA -- A state judge in Riverside ordered ABC News in late August to give prosecutors unaired tape of a jailhouse interview with Benny Powell, who has been accused of rape. Powell attracted national attention last year when he and another man were released from prison 17 years after their wrongful conviction for murder.

In the current rape case, the prosecutors subpoenaed about 85 minutes of an interview ABC conducted with Powell at an Arizona jail. A deputy district attorney told the Associated Press that according to jailers, during the interview Powell blames his jailing on the rape charge on floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Powell's attorney, Virginia Blumenthal, told the Associated Press that she had not seen the tape, but understood it contained no specific facts relevant to the case.

California's shield law protects the media from contempt citations for refusing to disclose either sources or unpublished information.

Judge Edward Webster's order required ABC to turn over the tape by Sept. 17, but ABC planned to appeal, Jody Zucker, an ABC attorney, told the Associated Press.

(California v. Powell; Media Counsel: Jody Zucker, Los Angeles)