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Reporter gets 70-day jail sentence, $500 fine for refusing to testify

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Reporter gets 70-day jail sentence, $500 fine for refusing to testify10/21/96 FLORIDA--A Miami Herald reporter sent to jail on October…

Reporter gets 70-day jail sentence, $500 fine for refusing to testify

10/21/96

FLORIDA–A Miami Herald reporter sent to jail on October 7 for criminal contempt of a state court asked a federal District Court in Miami on October 16 to order his release.

David Kidwell was sentenced to 70 days in jail and fined $500 for criminal contempt when he refused to testify for the prosecution about a November 1994 jailhouse interview with John Zile, accused of killing his stepdaughter.

Kidwell asserted a qualified reporters’ privilege under the First Amendment to protect him from disclosing information obtained during newsgathering. However, Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Roger Colton rejected the reporter’s claim of a constitutional privilege and ordered Kidwell to testify. When Kidwell refused, he was found in contempt.

Florida does not have a shield law, and state courts have drastically cut back on their recognition of any constitutionally based privileges in recent years. (Kidwell v. McCutcheon; Media Counsel: Sandy Bohrer, Miami)