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CBS turns over complete transcript sought by prosecutors

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials

    NMU         TEXAS         Confidentiality/Privilege         Nov 16, 1999    

CBS turns over complete transcript sought by prosecutors

  • In exchange for release from liability under contempt charges leveled against a network news producer, CBS agreed to turn over the complete transcript of an interview with one of the men charged in the dragging death of a black man in Jasper.

In mid-November, prosecutors in the capital-murder case over the racially charged dragging death of a black man obtained a complete transcript of the interview between Shawn Allen Barry and CBS anchor Dan Rather as a result of an agreement reached between the prosecutors and CBS to drop the contempt charges against CBS producer Mary Mapes. Mapes had refused to turn over outtakes of the “60 Minutes II” interview, and was held in contempt and sentenced to jail by a Texas court.

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 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. 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. The appellate court upheld the contempt ruling, and on Nov. 5, Mapes posted bond to avoid incarceration and filed an emergency appeal with the Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin. The court refused to hear her appeal on Nov. 9 and ordered her to report to jail. However, the prosecutors and CBS reached an agreement in which CBS was to turn over the transcript of the outtakes, and the contempt charges against Mapes would be dropped. CBS turned over the transcript to the prosecutors on Nov.10.

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 after it found that he was 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 subsequently dropped their request for Rather’s presence at the trial.

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 this pickup truck, but said he could not stop 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)

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