In July 2012, Fox reporter Jana Winter reported that James Holmes, the shooter in the Aurora, Colorado theater massacre who murdered 12 people during a showing of The Dark Knight Rises, had sent a University of Colorado psychiatrist a notebook “full of details about how he was going to kill people.” The notebook had pictures of a stick-figure shooting other stick figures. She got the information, she reported, from “law enforcement sources.”
Now, Winter may lose her journalistic freedom. Thanks to a Colorado court ruling stating that Winter’s failure to disclose her sources deprived Holmes of a fair trial by violating a judicial gag order, and a New York court’s agreement, Winter may be forced to disclose the source of the information or face jail time in Colorado. As Judith Miller, a journalist who spent 85 days in jail to protect her sources, writes, “Given the broader assault on journalists and a free and independent press every American should know Jana’s name.”
Tuesday is the big day for Winter, who is due in the New York State Court of Appeals to argue in favor of protection of sources. “We are hoping that the high court will agree with our position that the subpoena should be quashed,” Winter’s attorney, Dori Ann Hanswirth, said. “What could happen to Jana in Colorado would never happen in New York.” New York has laws shielding journalists from being forced to reveal sources. If the New York court does not grant Winter’s request, she will have to appear in Arapahoe County on January 3 to face the prospect of prison time.
Colorado’s law obviates First Amendment protections of freedom of speech, and effectively quashes any ability for reporters to reveal information detrimental to those in power in the government. For the fourth estate to operate in its intended fashion, journalists must have the freedom to protect their sources. That principle will be put to the test next week.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.