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TV stations must provide interview tape to criminal defendant

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TV stations must provide interview tape to criminal defendant 03/09/98 INDIANA--In late February the state Supreme Court in Indianapolis in…

TV stations must provide interview tape to criminal defendant

03/09/98

INDIANA–In late February the state Supreme Court in Indianapolis in two separate cases held that the First Amendment does not create a reporter’s privilege protecting nonconfidential outtakes from compelled disclosure to criminal defendants. However, the court did limit the amount of material the subpoenaed news organizations would have to produce.

In one case, Krista Cline, who has been charged with the murder of her daughter Alexis, subpoenaed Indianapolis television stations WTHR and WRTV seeking all videotape, aired and unaired, regarding the death of Alexis Cline.

In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Theodore Boehm, the court held that, except in regard to videotape of one interview, Cline’s subpoena should have been quashed.

The court held that the stations would have to produce unaired tape of an interview between Cline and a WTHR reporter for inspection by the trial court judge, who will determine whether or not the tape is relevant enough to the defense to require release to Cline.

Rejecting the stations’ argument that compelling disclosure would unduly burden the newsgathering process, the court held that the First Amendment did not create a qualified reporter’s privilege protecting nonconfidential outtakes from subpoenas from criminal defendants.

“We have been given no reason to believe that a discovery request by a criminal defendant … will amount to anything more than a slight imposition on the media, and no impairment at all of their ability to report the news,” Boehm wrote.

However, the court held that Cline’s demand for “all news footage” was barred by state trial procedure rules. Except for WTHR’s interview with Cline, the subpoena was too vague and sought material that was irrelevant to Cline’s defense, the court held.

The court reached a similar conclusion in another case decided on the same day. The court held that Zelda Milam, charged with murdering her husband, could not force WTHR to disclose “all news footage” related to the death of Milam’s husband and subsequent investigation. (Indiana v. Cline and Indiana v. Milam; Media Counsel: Michael Wilkins, Indianapolis (WTHR); Lee McTurnan, Indianapolis (WRTV))