39 Am. Crim. L. Rev. 1441 (2002)
Journalist's Privilege in Criminal Proceedings: An Analysis of United States Courts of Appeals' Decisions from 1973 to 1999

handle is hein.journals/amcrimlr39 and id is 1451 raw text is: JOURNALIST'S PRIVILEGE IN CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS:
AN ANALYSIS OF UNITED STATES COURTS OF
APPEALS' DECISIONS FROM 1973 TO 1999
Karl H. Schmid*
I. INTRODUCTION
United States Courts of Appeals rarely are presented with the issue of journal-
ist's privilege emanating from a criminal proceeding. In August 2001, however,
the Fifth Circuit decided one of the most publicized journalist's privilege cases in
an unpublished, per curiam opinion.' The case concerned Vanessa Leggett, an
aspiring freelance writer and English teacher, who was investigating a murder case
with the hopes of publishing a book about the incident.2 After Leggett failed to
comply with a federal grand jury subpoena, the court cited her for civil contempt
pursuant to 28 U.S.C.  1826(a)3 and ordered her jailed until she furnished the
sought-after materials, which consisted of tape recordings, notes of interviews, and
* Karl H. Schmid is currently a Judicial Law Clerk for the Honorable Harold R. DeMoss Jr., Circuit Judge,
United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Ph.D., 2001, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill;
J.D., 1997, Loyola University New Orleans, School of Law; M.A., 1997, Loyola University New Orleans,
Graduate School; B.S., 1988, Cornell University.
I. In re Grand Jury Subpoenas, No. 01-20745 (5th Cir. Aug. 17, 2001) (unpublished) (per curiam). The federal
grand jury from the Southern District of Texas investigated possible illegal activities of Robert Angleton, a
millionaire bookie from Houston, Texas. Robert Angleton allegedly hired his brother, Roger Angleton, to kill
Robert's wife, Doris, who was found shot to death in April 1997. The federal grand jury was convened after
Robert Angleton was tried and acquitted in state court for his part in the murder. Roger Angleton, the alleged
triggerman in the murder, committed suicide while in custody at the Harris County jail in February 1998. Id. at 2.
Vanessa Leggett, an aspiring writer independently investigating the case, interviewed the Angleton brothers,
Roger Angleton's wife, and others connected to the case. The interviews were memorialized on both audiotapes
and in written notes. As a result of Leggett's knowledge of the case, she was subpoenaed to appear before the
federal grand jury in December 2000.
After appearing before the grand jury, Leggett continued her own investigation of the murder. In June 2001,
Leggett received a second subpoena directing her to appear before the grand jury with: Any and all tape recorded
conversations, originals and copies, of conversations [she] had with any of the following individuals [identifying
34 people by name], or any other recorded conversations with individuals associated with the prosecution of
Robert Angleton, either with or without their consent, and all transcripts prepared from those tape recordings. Id.
at 3. Leggett moved to have the subpoena quashed, claiming a journalist's privilege under the First Amendment.
The district court denied the motion. Id.
Shortly thereafter, Leggett received a third grand jury subpoena virtually identical to the previous one. On July
19, 2001, Leggett went before the grand jury and, claiming a First and Fifth Amendment privilege, refused to
produce the subpoenaed material. To counter Leggett's claim of a Fifth Amendment privilege against self-
incrimination, the United States presented her with a proffer letter that granted use and derivative-use immunity
for any testimony given before the grand jury or in statements made to federal agents. Leggett refused to accept
the government's offer. Id. at 3-4.
2. Id. at 2.
3. 28 U.S.C.  1826(a) (2000).

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