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Judge orders TV station to turn over video footage

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials

    NMU         NORTH CAROLINA         Confidentiality/Privilege         Jun 6, 2002    

Judge orders TV station to turn over video footage

  • Broadcasters do not enjoy qualified privilege in videotapes of a police raid at an apartment complex, judge ruled.

A North Carolina judge issued a court order on May 23 that required WTVD in Durham, N.C., to provide uncut footage of a police raid earlier this year at a local apartment complex.

During the drug raid on Feb.15 and 16, Durham police officers arrested 35 people on 36 felony charges and issued 65 traffic citations. Residents at Cheek Road Apartments complained about the police officers’ tactics in conducting the raid. The public defender’s office in Durham contends that residents’ rights were violated when officers entered apartments without valid search warrants.

Public Defender Bob Brown filed a motion requesting all news footage of the February raids as part of its discovery requests.

North Carolina shield laws, adopted in 1999, grant reporters a qualified privilege that can be overcome only if a party seeking information from a journalist can prove the information is relevant and material to the proper administration of the legal proceeding. Also, the law requires that the information cannot be obtained from alternate sources and is essential to a claim or defense.

North Carolina Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson issued the order, but he agreed to a 30-day stay to give the station’s attorneys time to research the ruling and possibly file an appeal. If the ruling is appealed, it could be the first test of North Carolina’s shield laws.

Presently, WTVD has not released any of its footage to the public defender’s office. Jon Buchan, the station’s attorney, said no action will be taken until he receives the written court order.

(State of North Carolina v. Latoya Nichole Riley; Media counsel: Jonathan Buchan) JLW

© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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