Archive for Friday, December 11, 2009

State judge orders reporter to testify about interview

December 11, 2009

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— A Dodge City reporter has been ordered to testify about information she gathered for a story on a shooting that left one man dead and another wounded.

District Judge Daniel Love ruled Wednesday that Dodge City Daily Globe reporter Claire O’Brien must testify at an inquisition about a story she wrote about murder suspect Samuel Bonilla.

Ford County Attorney Terry Malone issued a subpoena to the Globe and O’Brien, seeking details about an Oct. 7 interview with Bonilla. An Oct. 13 story in the Globe based mostly on that interview included a few statements attributed to anonymous sources.

Bonilla is charged in the Labor Day weekend shooting of two Dodge City residents, which left one man dead and another wounded. In the interview, Bonilla told O’Brien he acted in self-defense.

In Love’s ruling, he said state and federal courts had established that courts must balance the government’s need for information against the reporter’s interest in protecting sources.

“In this case, when applying the balancing test, it is clear to the court that the need for this information outweighs the news reporter’s privilege of confidentiality,” Love wrote.

Malone was pleased with the ruling. “He was absolutely right,” Malone said. “This is a criminal investigation into a murder case, and the Globe reporter has relevant information regarding that.”

Publisher Darrel Adams said he would consult with the newspaper’s attorneys before deciding whether to appeal.

“We are disappointed with the ruling. Our position remains unchanged by this. Reporters have an obligation to inform the public on issues of community importance and should be allowed to do so unfettered by government interference,” Adams said.

Daily Globe attorney Mike Giardine declined to comment.

Bonilla is charged with shooting Steven Holt and Tanner Brunson on Labor Day in the Arkansas River bed. Holt died but Brunson survived.

Bonilla has been charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder. He is being held in the Ford County Detention Center. Jail officials did not know Thursday whether Bonilla had an attorney.

In his subpoena, Malone said he needed O’Brien’s notes from her interview with Bonilla concerning Bonilla’s version of events leading up to the shooting.

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