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Judge orders reporter released after 3 weeks

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
Lisa Abraham was jailed for 22 days after refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating an official she interviewed.

Lisa Abraham, a reporter imprisoned in the Trumbull County Jail for 22 days after refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating an official she had interviewed, was released in mid-February when the grand jury finished its term.

Abraham’s interview with the official was not confidential. But she argued in Ohio’s state courts that under the First Amendment and the Ohio Constitution, before she could be compelled to testify the state must prove that she has highly relevant information, there is no other source for the information and there is a compelling need for the information.

An Ohio appeals court in Warren rejected that contention in late November, ruling that the state must demonstrate only a legitimate purpose for the subpoena. In mid-January the Ohio Supreme Court in Columbus refused to hear the case. When Abraham still refused to testify, the trial court in Warren ordered her to jail.

After exhausting her appeals, Abraham still refused to testify. “I believe reporters should not be used by our society as cops,” Abraham told the New York Times. “If I cooperated, it would shatter the credibility of all reporters. If I cooperated, any sources looking at me — past, present, or future — would wonder, ‘Can I trust her?'”

The trial judge, John Stuard, ordered Abraham’s release upon learning that the grand jury had completed its work. It had indicted the official on numerous counts.

(In re Grand Jury Witness Subpoena of Lisa Abraham; Media Counsel: Charles Richards, Warren)


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