New York’s top court on Tuesday ruled that Fox News reporter Jana Winter cannot be forced to reveal her confidential sources for a major report about the Colorado movie theater massacre.
Winter has been fighting against having to tell a Colorado court who told her that accused Aurora shooter James Holmes mailed a notebook filled with “details about how he was going to kill people” to a university psychiatrist before he allegedly embarked on a deadly shooting rampage during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
As Fox News reported, the 4-3 decision from New York’s Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling that meant Winter had to appear in the Colorado court. Colorado has a weaker reporter shield law than New York, where Winter lives and works.
“[A]n order from a New York court directing a reporter to appear in another state where, as here, there is a substantial likelihood that she will be compelled to identify sources who have been promised confidentiality would offend our strong public policy,” Tuesday’s order read.
Winter had previously indicated she was willing to go to jail instead of testifying about who told her about the notebook.
“Today, Jana Winter is finally free from the threat of jail that has been hanging over her head for more than a year,” Winter’s attorney, Dori Ann Hanswirth, told Fox. “New York’s highest court has ruled that she does not have to appear in Colorado to disclose her confidential sources.”
Hanswirth hailed the court for its “broad decision protecting all New York-based journalists.”
“Today’s victory is as much for Jana Winter as it is for all journalists and the public, which has a right to receive news from confidential sources,” she said.
Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes also praised the decision.
“Today’s ruling is a major win for all journalists. The protection of Jana Winter’s confidential sources was necessary for the survival of journalism and democracy as a whole. We are very grateful that the highest court in New York State agreed with our position,” Ailes said in a statement emailed to TheBlaze.
Winter for her part took to Twitter to express her relief:
Hanswirth told TheBlaze earlier this year that the names of Winter’s sources were in no way critical to the case against Holmes.
“She knows what the potential consequences are of being compelled to give up confidential news-gathering information and refusing to do it,” Hanswirth said in April. “She can’t give up who her sources are because if she gives up her source, then no journalist in the country is going to be able to definitively convince a source that ‘journalists just don’t do that sort of thing and therefore you can trust me with your information.’”
This post has been updated.