Order to turn over interview notes about accused killer stayed
NORTH CAROLINA–In mid-March the state Supreme Court in Raleigh agreed to hear a newspaper reporter’s appeal of a Durham trial court’s order to turn over notes made during an interview to a prosecutor.
The high court’s ruling delays enforcement of Judge Orlando Hudson’s order that reporter Andrew Curliss of The (Raleigh) News & Observer produce notes he took during an interview with Derrick Allen in the Durham County jail two days after Allen was arrested for sexually assaulting and killing his girlfriend’s two-year-old daughter, Adesha Artis.
Autopsy results indicate that Artis may have died from “shaken baby syndrome.” In the interview with Curliss, Allen denied injuring Artis in any way.
Assistant District Attorney Freda Black told the trial court that she needed Curliss’s notes because they might reveal inconsistencies between Allen’s statements to the police and what he told the reporter in the interview. She argued that the state’s interest in prosecuting what will be a death penalty case overrides any privilege that might protect the reporter’s notes.
The newspaper responded that the rule set forth by a state appellate court in Raleigh in mid-February, holding that the reporter’s privilege did not protect non-confidential information from a non-confidential source, should not apply to Curliss’ notes. The News & Observer argued that because some of the information in the notes remained unpublished, the notes contained confidential information that should be protected from disclosure. Otherwise, the newspaper argued, reporters would be in danger of becoming an investigative tool of the police department, making potential interview subjects less likely to speak with them.
Because the underlying prosecution involves a charge of capital murder, the state Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal immediately rather than wait for an intermediate appellate court to consider it first. The Supreme Court’s decision allows the newspaper to bypass the appellate court that decided the Owens case, which otherwise would have heard the Curliss appeal. (In Re Andrew Curliss; Media Counsel: Amanda Martin, Raleigh)