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California student journalist seeks shield law protection

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
A student journalist who witnessed a killing in San Francisco is trying to use California's shield law to protect his…

A student journalist who witnessed a killing in San Francisco is trying to use California’s shield law to protect his work., the San Francisco Chronicle reports

The 22-year-old San Francisco State photojournalism student was working on his senior project in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood when he witnessed the killing of Norris Bennett, according to the Chronicle. The newspaper did not identify the student because he is afraid for his safety. The student was following Bennett, a 21-year-old business student at City College of San Fransisco, as part of his project. Bennett was shooting dice April 17 in the neighborhood where he grew up when he was killed.

Police attempted to interview the student journalist at the scene, but he declined, according to the Chronicle. Police obtained a search warrant for his home and DNA, and several items were seized.

A First Amendment attorney, Jim Wagstaffe, who teaches part-time in the San Francisco State journalism department, is representing the student for free, the Chronicle reported. He is challenging the validity of the search warrant based on California’s shield law.

"The shield law is designed to allow reporters to cover events without becoming witnesses," Wagstaffe told the Chronicle.

The California shield law protects people who are employed by or connected with newspapers, magazines, and other periodical publications. The Chronicle reported that the student journalist had blogged about his senior project prior to the shooting.