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Court narrows scope of subpoena for non-confidential information

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
Court narrows scope of subpoena for non-confidential information 03/08/99 NEVADA--A state trial judge held in mid-February that, applying constitutional principles…

Court narrows scope of subpoena for non-confidential information

03/08/99

NEVADA–A state trial judge held in mid-February that, applying constitutional principles and the Nevada shield law, a reporter for KRNV-TV in Reno does not have to provide non-confidential, but unpublished, information demanded by the Reno District Attorney in September.

District Attorney Richard Gammick subpoenaed reporter Victoria Campbell in relation to the murder trial of John Andre Bazile — the man charged in the stabbing death of a woman whose body was found buried under 3 feet of snow near Reno in 1997. Campbell interviewed Bazile in jail on the day he was arrested, and Bazile made inculpatory statements during that interview.

Washoe County District Judge Peter Breen in Reno granted Campbell’s request to modify the subpoena to require only the production of previously broadcast videotape and authentication of that videotape.

Breen conceded that the state of Nevada has a “compelling” interest in prosecuting criminal conduct and protecting the “interests of justice,” but stated that “it appears that the facts of this case weigh in favor of the First Amendment.”

Breen noted that Bazile had confessed to a Washoe County Sheriff’s Deputy, that an eyewitness saw the murder and identified Bazile as the killer, and that a jail guard was present for Campbell’s interview and witnessed all unbroadcast statements Bazile made to Campbell. “There appears to be ample evidence available to the State in this case,” Breen concluded.

Most of Breen’s discussion focused on First Amendment principles, but he added that the Nevada shield law “appears to be straightforward, in that it provides protection for Campbell. It does appear to be quite strong in its position.”

The Nevada shield law provides an absolute privilege against forced disclosure of sources and information obtained during newsgathering.

Campbell agreed in December to provide the prosecution with a copy of the broadcast footage and to testify as to the authenticity of that videotape, but Gammick had wanted the unedited videotape from Campbell’s interview as well. (Nevada v. Bazile; Media Counsel: Dominic Gentile, Las Vegas)