Given Arapahoe County's record, Fox reporter Jana Winter should be glad she's only facing contempt-of-court charges, not the death penalty.
As media outlets were chasing every possible tip in the days following the Aurora shootings last July, Winter came up with a real scoop: James Holmes had sent a notebook to Lynne Fenton, the psychiatrist who'd been seeing the University of Colorado graduate student; according to law enforcement sources, it contained "details about how he was going to kill people."
The notebook was found in the mailroom at the University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus, where Holmes was a student and Fenton worked, after the July 20 shootings. And as with so many documents involved in this case, it fell under a gag order. But Winter got the story, anyway.
Holmes's attorneys want to know who leaked the information to Winter, and at a hearing in December they questioned several law enforcement officers with access to the notebook; none admitted to being Winter's source.
Colorado has a strong shield law protecting a journalist's work. Even so, Winter herself was supposed to be questioned in court this afternoon -- and she could have faced jail if she refused to reveal her source. But yesterday, Judge Carlos Samour, who'd taken over the case from Judge William Sylvester after the DA determined to go for the death penalty, pointed out that Holmes's attorneys still had more avenues they could pursue to determine the source of the leak -- and they're expected to take that path today. As a result, Samour said, the issue of whether to require Winter to testify is not yet "ripe."
It should not get any riper.
The reporter, who's staunchly supported by her employer and numerous journalism outfits across the country, could still face the choice of either revealing her source or refusing to testify and going to jail.
All for doing her job, and doing it well. Which, as more information on the days leading up to the shooting becomes public -- information on who was warned about the threats that Holmes had made in the days leading up to the tragedy, rather than who leaked documents after the fact -- may be more than can be said for other people involved in this tragedy.
Don't shoot the messenger.
Here's Winter's affidavit, in which she describes how the inquiry about her sources is hurting her journalism career.
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From the Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Photo finish: Obscenity is in the eye of the beholder."