Tennessee TV reporter seeks shield law protection

Tuesday, May 26, 1998

Paul Dennis Rei...
Paul Dennis Reid is led out of the Montgomery County Courthouse by sheriff's deputies after a motion hearing in Clarksville, Tenn., Wednesday, May 13, 1998. Reid is charged with the kidnapping and stabbing deaths of two Clarksville Baskin-Robbins employees, Michelle Mace, 16, and Angela Holmes, 21, in April 1997. Reid is also charged with the murders of three Nashville McDonald's and two Donelson Captain D's employees.

A Montgomery County, Tenn., judge will decide whether WTVF-TV reporter Jennifer Krause must release taped telephone conversations with multiple-murder suspect Paul Dennis Reid.

Reid's attorney, Mike Engle, is requesting that more than five hours of audiotapes Krause made during an interview with Reid be released to the defense. The station broadcast 11 minutes of those tapes last June.

Engle said: “I've subpoenaed her for the balance of the tapes. If you play part of the recordings then why not play all?”

At a hearing held Friday, the station's counsel moved to quash the subpoena for the tapes along with a request by prosecutors to have Krause testify as a witness for the state. Attorney Ron Harris argued that Krause is protected by Tennessee's media shield law.

The state's shield law provides that anyone who collects information for publication or broadcast, whether employed by the media or not, cannot be compelled to reveal any information or the source of the information unless the one who seeks the information satisfies three conditions:

  • Just cause exists to believe that the person from whom the information is sought has information that is clearly relevant to a specific, probable violation of law.
  • There is a compelling and overriding interest of the people in the state Tennessee.
  • The information cannot be reasonably obtained by alternative means.

Harris said that Tennessee's shield law is one of the strongest nationwide. “Our shield is strong. Some laws protect information, some only protect sources, but Tennesee's shield law has language that protects both.”

Richard Hollow, a First Amendment attorney with the Tennessee Press Association, agreed. He said: “The Tennessee shield law is as strong as any in the United States. I don't know of any state shield law that is any tougher.

“If the reporter gathers information regardless of how they got it, that's what triggers the protection,” Hollow said.

Kraus declined an interview citing Circuit Court Judge John Gasaway's gag order.

During conversations with Krause, Reid denied any involvement in the murder-robberies that took the lives of five employees at two fast-food restaurants in February and March '97. He also attempted to refute evidence against him, such as his fingerprints being found on a victim's video store ID card. His trial is set to begin July 20.

In a recent Nashville Scene column, media critic Henry Walker writes: “If the jury is going to hear portions of the tapes that Channel 5 broadcast, Reid's lawyers should also be able to play whatever portions of the tape they believe would help Reid's defense.

“…The news man's shield is there so reporters won't have to rat on their sources. Here, though, the source himself has asked, through his attorney, that all tapes of his conversations with Krause be made public. He ought to have that right.”

David Baker, another attorney representing Reid, also refused to speak about the case citing Gasaway's gag order, which affects all attorneys and witnesses connected to the case. He did say, however, that the question of the Krause-Reid recordings is “under advisement,” meaning a decision could come down at any time.