Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Most Taunted 

Wednesday, Dec 6 2006
Comments
Any murder case involving an exploding robot dog was bound to get weird. Add the hunt for a fugitive — who reportedly rigged the pup to blow when its battery was inserted — an alleged accomplice, America's Most Wanted, and years of litigation and, well, the court saga could have its own Fox reality series.

For three years, the San Francisco federal public defender representing alleged accomplice David Lin has been trying to get videotapes and transcripts of the outtakes from an America's Most Wanted segment on the crime. But the show has fought it, arguing that the subpoena threatens its freedom of press.

Then a secretary for the show's attorney, Thomas Burke, accidentally sent the defense and the government the transcripts. Burke says he tried to fix the error within 15 minutes of learning about the leak, but S.F. Federal Public Defender Daniel Blank points out that Burke's call came on Nov. 7, about a month after his office received the documents.

Now everyone has agreed to play nice and seal the documents until a Dec. 8 hearing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Only Blank isn't buying that this case has anything to do with the First Amendment.

"America's Most Wanted is really a quasi-vigilante arm of the government," he says. The show, he believes, is designed to get information for law enforcement; it's not a "check on the government," like a newspaper.

But Wanted's Burke believes cases like his are threatening journalists across the country. "What's at stake for the broader media is to protect the media from regularly having to respond to subpoenas," he explains. (You know, like New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who spent 12 weeks in jail for not revealing a source, and S.F. vlogger Josh Wolf, who's still in jail for refusing to turn over video footage.)

The public defender, Blank, has filed briefs arguing that because the government got the Fox transcripts, the documents should be fair game. "The law says that when the government has them, they have to give us those statements," he says. Besides, he believes that government employees interviewed for the Wanted episode made statements in those outtakes that are inconsistent with their current arguments.

A judge ruled that the materials should be turned over. But when he watched them, he called them "a big nothing," according to The Recorder.

As for questions about whether America's Most Wanted counts as journalism, Burke scoffs, "They could say they don't think alternative newspapers are real journalism."

But who'd say something like that?

About The Author

Mary Spicuzza

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Slideshows

  • 24th Annual Autumn Moon Festival
    Crowds gathered September 6-7 for the 24th Annual Autumn Moon Festival in Chinatown. Visitors enjoyed arts, crafts, cultural exhibits, food and a dog fashion show. Photographs by Dhoryan Rizo.
  • Felton: Touring the Redwoods
    Blue skies meet redwood canopies in the mountain town of Felton, located just north of Santa Cruz on Highway 9. Once a bustling logging community, the town is now a mix of mellow locals and serene wilderness. Visitors can enjoy the redwoods in nearby Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and splash in swimming holes in the San Lorenzo River. For a bite to eat stop by Rocky’s Cafe for fruit-laden pancakes, barbeque at the Cowboy Bar & Grill and poolside burgers at the Trout Farm Inn. Other stops worth checking out include Roaring Camp Railroads, the Mount Hermon zip line tour, and the educational Bigfoot Discovery Museum. For beer or cocktails a log cabin bar has you covered.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed