Fox News reporter on trial in Albany, fighting to keep sources private

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Updated: 11/12/2013 10:49 pm

ALBANY, N.Y. - The New York Court of Appeals began hearing arguments Tuesday in a case involving a New York based reporter for Fox News and her fight to keep her sources confidential.

Jana Winter broke a story on the Aurora movie theater shooting; claiming sources told her accused shooter James Holmes had mailed a psychiatrist a notebook depicting specific violent acts prior to the shootings.

A lawyer for accused gunman James Holmes, who was in court in Albany Tuesday, wants Winter to be brought to court in Colorado in order to name her sources, claiming those sources violated a gag order.

Tuesday, Winter's attorneys argued that would violate the broad protections under the NY state shield law and forever impact the trust most investigative journalists depend on so much.

Miss Winter will suffer irreparable harm as an investigative journalist if she is forced to burn her sources," said Chris Handman, a lawyer representing Fox News reporter Jana Winter.  He says his client would rather go to jail than reveal who told her about a notebook allegedly depicting drawings by accused Colorado movie theater gunman James Holmes.

"It is not just Miss Winter, " said Handman.  "When you look at when the legislature enacted it, they looked to affidavits from Walter Cronkite, Mike Wallace, Dan Rather all said if you are forced to burn your sources, your future as an investigative journalist is zero."

Dan Arshack, a lawyer representing Holmes says they need Winter to reveal her sources because they believe those sources violated a gag order and want her in Colorado to deal with this before Holmes' trial date which is scheduled for February.

Also saying that NY journalists shouldn't face complete immunity when it comes to testifying in other states that don't have as broad protections as New York.

"I expect the court in New York to consider the arguments and issue a reasonable decision as they always do," said Arshack.

Handman saying that if the New York Court of Appeals does not overturn lower court rulings that Winter must testify, a precedent will be set for all New York journalists.

"They said the very threat of a subpoena is what counted, not the threat of being held in contempt," he said.  "The threat is the chill on press freedom.  If you are subjected to that, it's not just Miss Winter, but all press in New York are going to have to think long and hard when reporting on issues outside of New York."

The Court of Appeals is expected to have its decision in January.

Holmes having pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity - again, his trial set to start in February.

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