U. Arizona student media dodge riot subpoenas


Prosecutors withdraw request after paper mounts challenge





ARIZONA -- The student newspaper and student-run television station\nat the University of Arizona avoided subpoenas aimed at forcing\nthem to hand over photographs and taped footage of a disturbance\nin Tucson that followed Arizona's loss in the final round of the\nNCAA men's basketball tournament.

Pima County prosecutors withdrew the two grand jury subpoenas,\nwhich were issued in April and early May, after they were met\nwith challenges from the student media.

Prosecutors sought to compel The Daily Wildcat and TV3 to forfeit\nto Tucson police photographs and taped footage of riots in the\nFourth Avenue area.

After Arizona's April 2 loss to Duke University, nearly 500\npolice officers donning bulletproof shields and nightsticks showered\nrevelers with rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowd\nof more than 2,000, a portion of which had begun to cause substantial\ndamage to the area. According to The Daily Wildcat, several cars\nwere flipped, several stores looted and a Fourth Avenue bar was\ntorched during the disturbance.

Shortly after the incident, the Pima County attorney's office\nissued grand jury subpoenas to numerous local media outlets, including\nthe Wildcat and TV3, in hopes of gaining material that would help\nidentify the revelers who contributed to the disturbance.

But Daily Wildcat editor Ryan Finley, who was the newspaper's\nsports editor in the spring, said the paper's editors decided\nthat they would challenge any efforts aimed at forcing them to\nrelease any photographs of the incident.

Doug Metcalf, legal council for Arizona Student Media, drafted\na letter to Tucson police on April 30 informing them that the\nsubpoena's language made it impossible for the newspaper to comply.\n

Arizona law protects media outlets from having to turn over\nnotes, photos and other materials to investigators, but it does\nnot protect the media from grand jury subpoenas.

Finley said the newspaper's editors wanted to contest the subpoena\nto avoid creating a pattern where the police would come to the\nmedia to gain help investigating crimes.

"If we had caved into the Tucson Police Department, it\ncould have set a dangerous precedent," he said. "We\ndidn't want [the police] coming to us every time they are investigating\na crime ... demanding our photos from us. We didn't want them\nto start trying to get us to do their work for them."


Fall 2001, reports