Southern Illinois reporter defeats subpoena

ILLINOIS – The student newspaper at Southern Illinois\nUniversity at Carbondale defeated a May attempt by an Illinois\npublic defender to gain access to a student reporter’s notes.\nThe attorney was hoping to subpoena notes taken by the reporter\nwhile covering the murder of a Southern Illinois University student.

"The public defender essentially wanted to show someone\non the witness stand was lying," said Amy Gherna, an attorney\nat Craven and Thornton law firm in Springfield, Ill., who represented\nthe student newspaper. "He believed one of the reporter’s\nsources told him the opposite of what was going to be said on\nthe stand, which is not a compelling reason to divest a reporter\nof privilege."

The murdered student was stabbed to death on April 4. The police\nreporter for the Daily Egyptian, the student newspaper, wrote\ntwo stories about the case the week of the murder. Within 10 days,\nthe public defender’s office served the reporter with a subpoena\nrequesting his notes be turned over on April 26 before a judge,\naccording to Lance Speere, faculty adviser for the Daily Egyptian.

Gherna argued that such a subpoena would violate the Illinois\nreporter’s privilege statute as well as the common law special\nwitness doctrine.

Although the judge in this case did invite the public defender\nto file a petition to divest the reporter of his privilege, Gherna\nsaid such an appeal would be difficult for the public defender\nto argue.

"There’s probably an 80 to 90 percent chance we won’t\nhear anything more about it," Speere said in July.