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Fox News reporter may return to Colo. courtroom to defend confidential sources

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
Subpoenaed Fox News journalist Jana Winter will have to return to a Colorado courtroom to possibly testify about who gave…

Subpoenaed Fox News journalist Jana Winter will have to return to a Colorado courtroom to possibly testify about who gave her sealed information in the James Holmes case, a judge ordered Monday.

However, Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour said in Monday’s hearing that he intends to make Holmes’ lawyers “jump through all the hoops” before forcing Winter to share who gave her details of a notebook Holmes sent to his psychiatrist days before he allegedly opened fire in an Aurora movie theater, killing 12 people.

Winter has invoked the Colorado shield law, which requires Holmes’ lawyers to call for the journalist’s testimony only as a last resort. Samour said Monday that in order to exhaust all reasonable means of learning who leaked the information, defense attorneys must further question two officials closely involved with the case in an April 10 hearing.

Holmes’ lawyers have already unsuccessfully questioned 14 law enforcement officials about the source of the leak in a December hearing.

Monday’s hearing came after a New York judge signed a subpoena in March requiring Winter, who is based in New York, to testify in Colorado. Winter’s lawyers appealed that judge’s decision and asked Chief Judge William Sylvester – who has since stepped down from the case – to postpone Monday’s hearing pending Winter’s appeal. Sylvester denied the request last week.

Winter did not testify during the hearing. Her lawyers argued that the subpoena has harmed the journalist because her sources are not talking to her and asked the judge to quash the subpoena. Holmes’ lawyers insisted that Winter’s testimony is imperative to finding out who leaked the information, which they claim may affect Holmes’ trial.

If Samour orders Winter to reveal her sources and she refuses to do so, she may have to serve up to six months in jail for contempt of court.

Days after the mass shooting, Winter reported that the journal Holmes sent to his psychiatrist contained detailed drawings and descriptions of killing people. Sylvester had issued a sweeping gag order on everyone involved in the case, and the journal was considered sealed evidence. Winter cited two unnamed law officials as her sources.

Samour acknowledged that forcing Winter to name her sources in such a high-profile case could harm her reputation as a journalist, according to news reports.

Judge Sylvester, who has presided over the case since it began last July, stepped down Monday after prosecutors announced they would seek the death penalty for Holmes. The chief judge said he felt he could not oversee court operations while hearing such a complicated and drawn-out case.

Related Reporters Committee resources:

· Colorado – Privilege Compendium: I. Introduction: History & Background