Court again overturns subpoenas for riot footage, photos
MICHIGAN–An intermediate appellate court judge in Lansing ruled in late June that 11 media outlets do not have to turn over unpublished photographs and videotape of rioters in response to an Ingham County prosecutor’s investigative subpoenas, according to the Associated Press.
Judge Lawrence Glazer concluded that a 1995 Michigan law allows investigative subpoenas to be issued against the media only when they are the target of an investigation.
According to AP reports, Glazer said from the bench that the 1995 law “unambiguously exempts members of the newsgathering profession when they are pursuing their profession.”
The photographs and videotape sought by the prosecution were taken by members of the news media during the March riots that followed Michigan State University’s loss to Duke University in the NCAA basketball tournament.
East Lansing trial judge David Jordon first ordered reporters to turn over their materials in response to discovery subpoenas in early April. Glazer upheld Jordon’s order enforcing the discovery subpoenas in mid-April, but noted separately that investigative subpoenas would not be enforceable against the media. The state Supreme Court in Lansing, however, held in late April that both lower courts had improperly allowed prosecutors to issue discovery subpoenas because such subpoenas are generally limited to the parties in a case.
The high court then sent the matter back to the trial court for consideration of the prosecution’s request for investigative subpoenas, which are similar to search warrants. The investigative subpoenas were issued by the trial court in early May.
The media outlets involved are the Detroit Free Press, the Lansing State Journal, The State News, and television stations in Detroit, Flint, Lansing, Kalamazoo, and Grand Rapids.
(In re Subpoenas to News Media Petitioners; Counsel for the Detroit Free Press: Herschel Fink, Detroit; Counsel for the Lansing State Journal: Charles Barbieri, Lansing)