Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Defender subpoenas Publisher


Two more subpoenas were issued to the Santa Barbara Daily Sound yesterday by Deputy Public Defender Karen Atkins, who ordered Editor and Publisher Jeramy Gordon to turn over any photographs taken on March 14, the day of a large gang melee on State Street that left a 15-year-old dead and and a 14-year-old charged with murder.
The second subpoena was issued to Janelle Holcombe, one of the paper’s photographers.
Both subpoenas come on the heels of an original subpoena which was issued last week and ordered Daily Sound Co-Publisher Charles Swegles to turn over the photos he took between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. on the day of the stabbing, as reported yesterday in the Daily Sound.
All three Daily Sound employees are ordered to appear in court on July 5 at 1:30 p.m., which is the date of Ricardo “Ricky” Juarez’s next hearing, at which the court is expected to set a date for a preliminary hearing.
Juarez was charged with murder by District Attorney Christie Stanley in the stabbing death of Luis Angel Linares.
In an affidavit attached to Gordon and Swegles’ subpoenas, Atkins says she believes the pictures “show people and circumstances not recorded in other media and will therefore assist in preparation of Ricardo Juarez’s defense.”
Gordon noted the protections afforded journalists by California Shield Law, which provides safeguards for subpoenaed journalists and greatly diminishes the likelihood that a journalist can be held in contempt of court if he decides not to comply with a subpoena.
“This is a First Amendment issue. Period,” Gordon said. “Thankfully California is one of many states that has a shield law on the books. The law is plain and simple, no journalist in California can be held in contempt for refusing to turn over unpublished material. Honestly, I’m shocked Atkins doesn’t know that.”
Jim Wheaton, founder and senior counsel of The First Amendment Project, a nonprofit law firm in Oakland and professor of journalism and law at Stanford and UC Berkeley, also noted California law when asked about the subpoena.
“Newspapers can’t be part of legal proceedings for or against either side,” Wheaton said last Friday. “To do their job they must always be neutral observers and those principles have been recognized by the voters of California who put into the California constitution strong protections to protect journalists from ever being subpoenaed.”
Gordon called Atkins’ subpoenas “retaliation” for publishing Juarez’s photo in the Daily Sound on June 15, June 29 and again yesterday.
Atkins, who threatened to file a gag order after the June 15 issue of the Daily Sound was published, said retaliation is the last thing on her mind and simply wants to obtain evidence that she believes is pertinent to the defense’s case.
“This suggestion that I’m retaliating is ridiculous. I have much better things to do with my time than that,” Atkins said. “I’m just trying to get the evidence that you folks have. I’m just trying to represent my client.”
Atkins said no other local media outlets had been subpoenaed even though many of them were on State and Carrillo Streets shortly after the gang brawl ended -- a fact Gordon says is linked to the prior publication of Juarez’s photo in the Daily Sound.
“Why else would she subpoena only our photos if it’s not for retaliation for printing her client’s photo?” Gordon asked.
Gordon noted the historical importance of newspapers to protect all sources, and said the credibility of a paper rests on the shoulders of its ability to do so.
“This isn’t just about the photos,” Gordon said. “If we can’t protect our sources, then we can never consider ourselves a reliable news source.”
But Atkins, in her affidavit, says “the defendant’s interest in the information sought outweighs the subpoenaed party’s right to prevent its disclosure.”
Senior Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer, the prosecutor in the case, told the Daily Sound in an interview last Friday that he will wait and see what the court orders and see “how that battle shapes up before I’m in the middle of it.”
“My feeling is you have the right to photograph whatever you want to photograph,” Dozer said last Friday. “If you have photographs that are somehow important evidence in the case, I certainly hope we do get them. I’m certainly not going to ignore any photographs [the Daily Sound] may have.”
“This is not something we take lightly,” Gordon said. “A newspaper’s records have to remain confidential. We guard quite zealously our role as a member of a free and independent press and believe quite passionately that, consistent with the principles embodied in the First Amendment, it is not the role of the newspaper or its reporters or photographers to submit to such matters even where it may otherwise serve our particular interest in a particular case to do so.”

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