One Reporter's Day in Court
Get the back story here to attorney David Lane's decision to call Westword reporter Jared Jacang Maher to the stand during a suppression hearing for Columbus Day protestors.
Testimony of Jared Jacang Maher in Denver County Court on January 4, 2008:
DAVID LANE: May I start calling witnesses, your Honor? I’d ask this gentleman right here to please take the witness stand.
JUDGE CLAUDIA JORDAN: Sir, if you could raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear…. And what is your name?
JARED JACANG MAHER: Jared Maher.
JUDGE: you may take a seat.
LANE: Mr. Maher, could you tell us where you are employed?
MAHER: I’m employed at Westword Newspaper.
LANE: Did you have occasion to cover the Columbus Day Parade?
MAHER: I did.
LANE: So you were a witness to the goings on of the Columbus Day Parade. Is that correct?
MAHER: I was there as a reporter covering the event. So, yeah.
LANE: Are you familiar with the Colorado laws regarding the reporter privilege shield laws that preclude any judicial inquiry into reporter’s sources of information?
LANE: Well as an eye witness to the Columbus Day events, presumably you had occasion to talk to various people, is that correct?
MAHER: Yes I did.
LANE: And presumably some of the people you talked to were law enforcement people?
MAHER: Most of the quotes I got from law enforcement I obtained at a later date from official police sources, like their public information officers.
LANE: So you are in possession of evidence regarding some of the motivation for the police in terms of how they handled protests is that correct.
MAHER: I was there as a reporter covering the event so I observed arrests and other goings on.
LANE: So you are an eye witness to relevant events in this case.
MAHER: I guess one could say that.
LANE: Do you believe that as a reporter you have a constitutional right to sit here in this courtroom and listen to the testimony in this hearing.
MAHER: As a reporter and this being a public hearing, I do.
LANE: You also understand that as a citizen you are subject to subpoena just like anyone else?
LANE: But you also have the added protection of the reporter shield laws in Colorado.
LANE: So you just heard the judge tell everyone in this courtroom that if you are going to be called as a witness at this trial then you are going to have to get up and leave the proceedings today.
MAHER: I did.
LANE: Is it your intention as a reporter working for Westword that you are going to get up and leave the proceedings today on the off chance that you may or may not be subpoenaed for trial?
MAHER: Can you repeat that question?
LANE: Okay, you haven’t been subpoenaed for trial, have you?
MAHER: I have not.
LANE: You don’t know if you are going to be subpoenaed as a witness for trial, do you?
MAHER: I hadn’t anticipated it.
LANE: If I as an attorney said, Glenn Morris wants you to be a witness for him in this case because you have relevant information to give, that’s a possibility in your mind, right?
MAHER: Well, I’ve certainly been subpoenaed before in other cases.
LANE: Do you believe that if that happens you would have to pack up your gear and get out of this courtroom because the judge just ordered that you can’t be a reporter covering these proceedings for Westword magazine if you are going to be a witness at a trial down the road.
MAHER: That seems to be the case. Although I’ve never had to testify for the times I have been subpoenaed.
LANE: Do you think Westword magazine would have a First Amendment interest in getting counsel over here right now to see if there reporter can be constitutionally thrown out of the courtroom or not.
PROSECUTION: Objection, your honor. That calls for legal conclusion.
LANE: Do you know whether or not Patty Calhoun, who is the editor and chief of Westword, is she not?
MAHER: She is.
LANE: Has she expressed to you in the past a concern about maintaining Westword’s rights under the First Amendment?
PROSECUTION: Objection. It calls for speculation.
JUDGE: I wasn’t trying to preclude Westword from being in the courtroom. I’m only precluding the witnesses.
LANE: Well, do you believe that as a reporter for Westword that you should consult Patty Calhoun at this point because if we designate you as a witness you’re going to be precluded from covering this case as a reporter.
MAHER: If I was precluded from attending this hearing as a reporter, then I would make a call you my editor, who, in most cases, would direct me – in the past she has directed me to consult our legal counsel.
LANE: Would you like to take a recess to do that?
MAHER: Well, at this time I haven’t been precluded.
LANE: However, you understand that basically as an eyewitness to the events just as an abundance of caution that we are going to have to designate you as a witness.
PROSECUTION: Objection. Again, he’s asking the witness to speak as his own defense.
LANE: Well, why don’t we designate him as a witness, then.
LANE: Okay, now you are designated as a witness, would you like to stay and cover this proceeding.
MAHER: At this time, since I have suddenly been designated as a witness I think it would be prudent for me to consult my editor.
PROSECUTION: Your honor, I would like to object. Mr. Lane has not designated that [Mr. Maher] has any contributions relevant to these proceedings or that he actually will even call this witness at trial. He’s creating his own issue.
LANE: Well I haven’t interviewed any of these people, your honor. I don’t know if any of these people here are witnesses, defendants in other cases. I have no idea. My next witness is seated right there, though. I intend to call her as my next witness.
JUDGE: Counsel I don’t have a problem. We can go – my max here in 9:30 tonight though. [to prosecution] Did you have a question?
PROSECUTION: Yes, one question. Sir, is it normalLY your practice to cover trials in which you were also a witness?
MAHER: Our practice at Westword is that we cover any type of stories and beats –
PROSECUTION: Well, that’s not what I asked.
MAHER: The reason that I came down here is that I had previously written about this story, about the arrests.
PROSECUTION: What I asked was if you were going to be a witness at a trial – is it your practice at your newspaper to then have you cover that same trial as a reporter.
MAHER: If I knew I was going to be a witness at a trial, our first move would be to consult our legal counsel to get myself taken off that witness list.
PROSECUTION: Again, that’s not what I asked. If you know you are going to be a witness at a trial, say you observed some crime, you personally, say a murder, would you then be the reporter assigned to cover that trial.
MAHER: I’ve never been in that position, so I cannot say.
PROSECUTION: So your answer is you don’t know.
MAHER: I don’t know.
PROSECUTION: Thank you. No further questions.
LANE: All right, thank you. I appreciate your testimony.
JUDGE: Okay, so I believe that you’ve been designated as a witness, and I am going to have to ask you to leave.
LANE: And I object. Under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, I would ask this – well, obviously he’s going to call legal counsel at this point ….
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