Winter could face jail time for not revealing her sources in covering the movie-theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., that left 12 people dead and dozens injured last year. She disclosed that gunman James Holmes had sent a notebook to his psychiatrist before the late-night massacre.
The impact of the case against Winter is “quite palpable,” her lawyer, Dori Ann Hanswirth, told me. “She’s having a harder time getting sources to talk to her. Her career as an investigative journalist is damaged. She’s very concerned and upset.”
Winter will ask New York State’s highest court on Tuesday to quash the subpoena issued at the request of Holmes’ legal team. She is asking the Court of Appeals to overturn a 3-2 ruling in a lower court that she can be compelled to testify.
Her case would be a slam dunk if the trial were taking place in New York. The state has one of the country’s strongest shield laws protecting journalists from having to disclose their confidential sources. But Colorado has a much weaker shield law, and its legal standards will apply if the New York courts uphold the out-of-state subpoena.
Holmes “wants her testimony,” says Hanswirth, “because he is convinced that whoever gave Jana Winter some information about a notebook that he gave to a psychiatrist before he went on his rampage violated a gag order against pretrial publicity.”
That may be his legal right, but it seems like a side issue that has nothing to do with his guilt or innocence in the murder trial. Winter’s lawyers dispute the argument that Holmes exhausted all other legal means for getting the information about the leakers.
The Holmes notebook, Winters had quoted a law enforcement source as saying, included “drawings and illustrations of the massacre," along with “gun-wielding stick figures blowing away other stick figures.”