Student editor may defy court after losing subpoena appeal
MINNESOTA–Minnesota’s shield law does not protect newspapers from having to turn over unpublished photographs for use in criminal cases, the Court of Appeals in Minneapolis held in late October.
The court ordered The Minnesota Daily, a student newspaper at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus, to produce photographs of an October 1993 campus demonstration to a Hennepin County judge.
The Court of Appeals stated that the trial judge must review the photographs to determine if they are relevant evidence against Kieran Knutson, who has been charged with felony assault for allegedly striking another person during a demonstration to oppose an anticipated rally by neo-Nazis.
Michele Ames, the editor in chief of The Daily, has vowed to refuse to turn over the pictures. The newspaper was required to comply with the order by November 30. The penalty for defying a court order, which is considered contempt of court, can include a jail term. The newspaper has decided not to appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
In a November 1994 decision involving the same case, the Court of Appeals held that neither the shield law nor the First Amendment provides a reporter with a privilege not to testify about events personally witnessed while covering a story. The Minnesota Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal in that decision. (Minnesota v. Knutson; Media Counsel: Marshall H. Tanick, Minneapolis)