The Chron reports that a 22-year-old SF State journalism student has invoked the state’s shield law after he was present at a April 17 murder in San Francisco’s rough Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood. The student (who the Chron isn’t identifying for safety reasons) invoked his rights after San Francisco police searched his home. The Chron’s Jaxon Van Derbeken writes:
- On May 3, police obtained a warrant to search the student’s San Francisco home for the photographs, other possible evidence and even obtain his DNA. They seized some items, but it is not clear whether they found the photos.
The student has not returned to the apartment and has not been in direct contact with police, investigators say. He is being represented for free by an attorney who works with San Francisco State’s journalism department, who says he will try to quash the search warrant on the grounds that the student is covered by the state shield law.
“The shield law is designed to allow reporters to cover events without becoming witnesses,” said the attorney, Jim Wagstaffe, an expert on First Amendment law. Without that protection, he said, journalists could be forced to become “shills for police.”
“In this case,” Wagstaffe said, “it would appear the police have other information, and we would hope they would turn to that other information.”
Wagstaffe also tells the Chron that the student is “genuinely nervous” about his safety. The student journalist has not cooperated with police, which probably was a factor in the search. The Chron put the story on its front page this morning.