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TV station's 'outtakes' of interview with prisoner not protected

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TV station's 'outtakes' of interview with prisoner not protected 08/12/96 MISSOURI--Non-confidential information obtained in the course of newsgathering, such as…

TV station’s ‘outtakes’ of interview with prisoner not protected

08/12/96

MISSOURI–Non-confidential information obtained in the course of newsgathering, such as “outtakes” from a television interview, must be turned over when it is relevant to a grand jury investigation, the seven-member state Court of Appeals in Springfield unanimously held in late July. Less than a week later, the state Supreme Court denied an appeal in the case without issuing an opinion.

No appellate court in Missouri has expressly adopted a reporter’s privilege and the state does not have a “shield” law protecting journalists from subpoenas.

In mid-March, Dennis Graves, a reporter for KYTV in Springfield, interviewed Robert Craig Cox in the examination room of the Texas prison where Cox is incarcerated. Graves asked Cox questions regarding three women who disappeared from Springfield in 1992. In early July, KYTV received a subpoena for the unaired portions of the interview from a grand jury.

A Springfield trial judge rejected KYTV’s argument that the outtakes were protected by a qualified reporter’s privilege and denied the television station’s motion to quash the subpoena.

In denying the appeal, the Court of Appeals emphasized that the subpoena did not seek confidential information or sources. The court noted that Cox did not say anything “off the record.”

“The only reasonable inference is that Cox understood the entire interview or any part thereof would be broadcast, at the option of [KYTV],” the court stated. “Consequently, this Court finds no merit in [Grave’s] argument that enforcing the subpoena would have a ‘chilling effect’ upon his ability to acquire information from confidential sources.”

After the Supreme Court denied its appeal, KYTV turned over the outtakes in early August. A few days later, the television station aired the complete interview. (Graves v. Sweeney; Media Counsel: Arthur Hudkins, Springfield)