NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · MISSOURI · Prior Restraints · Feb. 9, 2007
Judge denies prior restraint for Devlin interviews
Feb. 9, 2007 · A Missouri judge ruled this week that a New York Post reporter will not have to turn over her notes from interviews with kidnapping suspect Michael Devlin.
Judge David Tobben in Union, Mo., also decided that banning other news organizations from printing stories based on the interviews amounted to an unconstitutional prior restraint.
Devlin’s attorneys requested the prior restraint late last month, shortly after the Post printed an article from two jailhouse interviews with Devlin.
Tobben declared that their request to prohibit publication of additional stories based on her interviews would effectively keep other news organizations from printing stories about the interviews, according to The Associated Press.
“The horse has been out of the barn for about three weeks now,” Tobben said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I don’t know what if anything further might be in Ms. Cahalan’s notes that hasn’t been seen.”
Newspapers around the country have picked up the story of Cahalan’s scoop.
Devlin’s attorneys claimed Susannah Cahalan, a freelancer for The New York Post and a Washington University student, obtained two separate interviews with Devlin by claiming she was a friend. Cahalan’s attorney said Cahalan told Devlin she was a reporter during the interviews and that she would be writing stories based on their conversations, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Cahalan did not take notes or recordings during the interviews, which focused on Devlin’s personal fears of facing his parents after his arrest. Cahalan made notes after leaving the jailhouse, and quoted Devlin over a dozen times in her stories.
Devlin’s attorneys had expressed fear that Cahalan’s testimony would be part of the prosecution’s case, but prosecutors told reporters that Cahalan and her notes will not be used.
Devlin has pleaded not guilty to charges in two Missouri counties, and has not yet been arraigned in St. Louis County. There, he faces two counts of kidnapping and 69 counts of forcible sodomy.
(Missouri v. Devlin) — LM