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Supreme Court won't hear Holmes appeal over Fox News reporter subpoena in Aurora theater shooting

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
The Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal of a New York ruling that said Fox News reporter Jana…

The Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal of a New York ruling that said Fox News reporter Jana Winter did not have to testify in the Colorado murder trial of James Holmes, the accused Aurora theater shooter. The lower court’s opinion therefore still stands, and Winter will not be forced to testify.

The Colorado court wanted Winter to testify about the sources who gave her confidential information about a notebook Holmes sent to his psychiatrist before he opened fire in a Colorado movie theater in July 2012.

Because Winter lives in New York, the Colorado court had to seek an order from a New York court forcing Winter to testify in Colorado. The highest court in New York ruled that it would not force Winter to testify, as she was protected by New York’s shield law, which is stronger than Colorado’s. The New York shield law offers "absolute privilege" for confidential sources and never forces a journalist to reveal the identity of confidential sources.

Colorado law, on the other hand, can require a journalist to reveal confidential sources if the information requested is "directly relevant to a substantial issue" and "cannot be obtained by any other reasonable means," and the interest in the information outweighs the First Amendment interests.

Holmes' trial will start in October with jury selection.

The Reporters Committee led a coalition of 38 media organizations in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Winter before New York's high court last August.