“Today’s ruling is a major win for all journalists,” Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes said this morning, after New York’s top court ruled one of his reporters can’t be forced to reveal sources used to cover the Aurora, Colorado movie theater mass murder. The New York Court of Appeals ruled 4-3 that the state’s shield law protected New York FoxNews.com reporter Jana Winter from being compelled to name sources. Winter first reported that law officers told her James Holmes kept a diary depicting violence and gave it to his psychiatrist before 12 movie-goers were gunned down during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in July of ’12. Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to multiple counts of murder and attempted murder; prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Holmes’s lawyers wanted Winter brought to Colorado to name her sources, arguing they had violated a gag order and would not be credible trial witnesses.
“There is a substantial likelihood that a New York reporter will be compelled to divulge the identity of a confidential source (or face a contempt sanction) if required to appear in the other jurisdiction — a result that would offend the core protections of the shield law, a New York public policy of the highest order,” the court said, overturning a mid-level appeals court’s decision, according to news reports.
“The protection of Jana Winter’s confidential sources was necessary for the survival of journalism and democracy as a whole,” Ailes said this morning in a statement. “We are very grateful that the highest court in New York State agreed with our position.”