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Prosecutor files motion to compel reporter to testify in murder case

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    News Media Update         NEW HAMPSHIRE         Confidentiality/Privilege    

Prosecutor files motion to compel reporter to testify in murder case

  • New Hampshire prosecutors are seeking the testimony of a Union Leader reporter who interviewed a murder suspect in prison.

Dec. 8, 2003 — The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office filed a motion last week to force reporter Kathryn Marchocki, of The (Manchester) Union Leader, to testify in the murder trial of a man she interviewed in prison.

Marchocki interviewed Manuel A. Gehring, who is charged with the murder of his two children, early last month for an article that was published in the Union Leader Nov. 11.

Prosecutors said that they need Marchocki’s testimony because attorneys for Gehring have indicated that they will move to suppress evidence and have his client plead insanity. Marchocki may have relevant information concerning Gehring’s mental health, prosecutors said.

According to her article, Marchocki interviewed Gehring for nearly an hour while a corrections officer “stood guard over the room.”

Gregory Sullivan, attorney for the Union Leader, says an order to compel testify is premature and speculative because the defense has yet to make any pleadings. He plans to file a motion on Dec. 8 opposing the motion to compel Marchocki’s testimony, which was filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Manchester.

“There is no good reason to trample the First Amendment” by forcing Marchocki to testify, Sullivan said.

New Hampshire does not have a shield law that would protect journalists from being compelled to testify in criminal cases. State case law indicates that a qualified reporter’s privilege does exist in some circumstances, although the contours of the privilege have not been defined.

Gehring is being held without bail at the Merrimack County House of Corrections as he awaits trial for the July 4 murder of his children, ages 14 and 11. Prosecutors believe he shot his children in New Hampshire, drove their bodies cross-country and buried them in the Midwest. Gehring was arrested in California; the children’s bodies have not yet been found.

(New Hampshire v. Gehring) KM

© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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