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CBS producer ordered to jail for withholding outtakes

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials

    NMU         TEXAS         Confidentiality/Privilege         Nov 5, 1999    

CBS producer ordered to jail for withholding outtakes

  • Prosecutors in the capital-murder case over the dragging death of a black man obtained an order sending producer Mary Mapes to jail for refusing to turn over outtakes of an interview with Shawn Allen Berry, while anchor Dan Rather was in court in New York City arguing he should not be forced to turn over the same tapes.

CBS news producer Mary Mapes was granted a last-minute emergency appeal and avoided an order to report to Jasper County Jail by 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5 for refusing to turn over outtakes of the network’s “60 Minutes II” interview with alleged murderer Shawn Allen Berry.

Mapes’ attorney filed an emergency appeal with the Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin, and the court ordered the trial judge in Jasper to respond to the motion by Monday, Nov. 8. Mapes posted a $2,000 bond as part of the appeal and will not have to report to jail.

Mapes was subpoenaed and ordered to appear before a state court in Jasper and to bring with her outtakes and unedited portions of an interview between CBS anchorman Dan Rather and Berry. Berry is one of the men charged in the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd Jr. Mapes challenged the subpoena on the grounds that she has never possessed or controlled the tapes.

When she failed to hand over the interview tapes on Nov. 2, the court held her in contempt. However, the effective date of the court’s ruling was postponed until after Nov. 4, when a state appellate court in Beaumont reviewed the ruling against Mapes.

CBS anchorman Dan Rather also was subpoenaed in late October to testify at Berry’s murder trial.

The trial court in Jasper approved the subpoena of Rather, found that he is a “material and necessary witness,” and ordered him to be present at the trial for about two weeks starting Nov. 9.

On Nov. 5, however, a New York City trial judge heard arguments from CBS objecting to the demand for Rather’s testimony. Prosecutors dropped their request for Rather’s presence at the trial. The trial judge did not rule on whether it will order Rather to turn over the tapes, but will try to rule by Nov. 12, according to CBS.

The interview occurred in late September, when Rather interviewed Berry for the CBS program “60 Minutes II.” Berry, charged with the June 7, 1998 killing of Byrd, admitted in the interview that he was present on the road where Byrd was chained to the bumper of his pickup truck, but he could not stop his co-defendants, John William King and Lawrence Russell Brewer, from beating Byrd because he was threatened by King when he tried to help Byrd.

(Texas v. Berry)

© 1999 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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