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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Will Gizmodo Shield Law Defense Extend to Serial-Killer Journalists?

Posted By on Tue, Apr 27, 2010 at 1:25 PM

Demonic killer Jason Voorhees: Protected under California's Shield Law?
  • Demonic killer Jason Voorhees: Protected under California's Shield Law?
Some of you out there may have been following a novel effort to further stretch California's famously broad Shield Law. Down in Fremont, gadget-blog Gizmodo Editor Jason Chen and his employers at Gawker Media are arguing that evidence uncovered in a police search of his home after he may have illegally bought a lost iPhone should be returned because he's protected as a journalist.

This is a corker of a use of the Shield Law, which has seen no shortage of questionable uses. Essentially, Gawker and Chen are arguing that a law intended to uphold the profession's ethical standards by

keeping our reporting tools out of

the hands of law-enforcement is a version of the

Fifth Amendment, carte blanche

for journos to break the law with impunity. It's not like Chen is just protecting his sources or sensitive unpublished material. Instead, he's protecting himself as one potential target of a criminal investigation.

This got us thinking. What other sorts of socially and legally unacceptable behavior might be protected under the Shield Law if Gawker's argument holds? Let's say I go on a brutal killing spree and subsequently post a flip-cam video of my adventures as a City Bright on the San Francisco Chronicle website. Are my unpublished footage, ceremonial butcher knives, and black leather gloves also exempt from police investigation? If I film a hard-hitting documentary about my personal penchant for

burning down schools, perhaps I can throw myself upon the altar of the

First Amendment, claiming the Shield Law's protection.

Thank you, Gawker, for daring to stand up for the fundamental rights, and criminal inclinations, of the free press.

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Peter Jamison


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