Which takes precedence? A newspaper reporter’s right to protect a source? Or a criminal defendant’s right to information that could save him from a murder conviction?
This week, we’re learning that a judge chose a murder defendant over the Daily News. The judge, Mark Dwyer of Brooklyn Supreme Court, ruled in an opinion published in the New York Law Journal that the murder defendant’s constitutional right to confront the witnesses against him trumps the newspaper’s right to protect a confidential source.
Here’s the story: In December 2009, the Daily News published an article about Angel Rivera, a Brooklyn man who is accused of being an accomplice in an attempt to shoot a police officer.
Said the article: “A gun-toting thug wearing a bulletproof vest tried to shoot at two cops in a Brooklyn housing project, but his gun jammed, police said Sunday.”
Prosecutors from the Brooklyn District Attorneys office intend to claim at trial that an alleged accomplice, Angelo Diaz, shouted, “Shoot the cop!,” while Rivera struggled with an officer over a gun.
But the Daily News article says that “according to official sources,” it was Rivera’s mother — and not Diaz — who had shouted “shoot the cop.”
Diaz subpoenaed the newspaper, arguing that the claim that someone else said, “Shoot the cop,” was critical to his defense. The Daily News moved to squash the subpoena.
Judge Dwyer ruled in favor of Diaz, writing: “The identity of the individual (or individuals) who said, ‘Shoot the cop’ is highly material to whether defendant was an accomplice in the attack on the police officer.”
Prosecutors allege that officers had discovered a gun when they attempted to arrest the men for drinking in public near a public housing complex at 2220 West 11th Street, in Gravesend.