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Reporter in Brooklyn case challenges witness subpoena

Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis. Eagle file photo

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

During the death penalty trial of Ronnell Wilson, an article appeared in the New York Times about a gesture the writer observed after the jury verdict was read.  Wilson’s defense attorney now seeks the reporter’s testimony as to the facts presented in that article.

Wilson was convicted in 2006 of murdering two New York City Police Department undercover detectives during a firearms transaction in Staten Island — and more recently accused of getting a prison guard pregnant —and sentenced to death for the murders. The death sentence, but not the conviction, was thrown out due to prosecutorial error, and a resentencing trial began in Brooklyn federal court on June 24.

Michael Brick worked for the New York Times in 2007 and was assigned to cover the Wilson trial. When the sentence of death was announced, Brick noted that Wilson stuck his tongue out and, according to court papers, his article “recounted the views of various people, both those involved in the case and others, about the incident and how it might affect public perception of [Wilson].”

Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled that evidence may be presented in the resentencing case showing “that [Wilson] stuck his tongue out at the victims’ family members after the death penalty verdicts were read aloud in court.”  

The victims’ widows will also testify that they took Wilson’s action to be “intentional and patently offensive.”  The government is expected to introduce this tongue incident as evidence of Wilson’s lack of remorse toward his killing of the two detectives.

Wilson’s attorneys claim that the gesture was ambiguous and has issued a subpoena for Brick’s testimony as to the incident. Brick, however, in his motion to quash the subpoena, asserts that he and other journalists “would be hampered in our ability to cover stories and observe and interview newsmakers freely if they thought we routinely be called to testify in litigation later.”

New York Times attorney Stephen Gikow noted in a letter to the court that the motion to quash was merely a “precaution,” and that he and Brick “expect to resolve this dispute without the court’s intervention.”

July 15, 2013 - 8:00am


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