WTHR-TV, In re

Decision Date23 February 1998
Docket NumberA,No. 49S00-9709-CR-484,WRTV-6,WTHR-TV and M,49S00-9709-CR-484
Parties26 Media L. Rep. 1961 In recGraw-Hill Broadcasting Company, Inc., d/b/a/ppellants. STATE of Indiana, Appellee, v. Krista M. CLINE, Appellee.
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

BOEHM, Justice.

This appeal arises out of a discovery dispute in a criminal case. At least one television station conducted an interview of the sixteen-year-old defendant while she was in police custody, without the knowledge of her court-appointed lawyer, and broadcast part of the interview. The defendant served subpoenas on several stations for whatever they had relevant to her case, including both the broadcast and unaired ("outtake") portions of the interview, and anything else. The trial court ordered the stations to produce "any unaired footage" in their possession for in camera inspection. Except for one item, an interview of the defendant, we reverse. The Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure require a discovery request to specify the item or information sought with reasonable particularity and establish at least its potential materiality to the case. We hold that the defendant's discovery request, except as it pertained to a copy of the videotaped interview, did not meet this standard. With respect to the interview, we conclude that the defendant has made a sufficient showing and direct that a videotaped copy of the full interview, including outtakes, be produced for in camera inspection. We also hold that neither the First Amendment to the United States Constitution nor Article I, Section 9 of the Indiana Constitution proscribes disclosure of unaired portions of the interview on grounds of privilege.

Factual and Procedural History

On July 7, 1997, sixteen-year-old Krista M. Cline was charged in Marion County with the murder of her daughter, Alexis Cline. The next day public defender Mark A. Earnest was appointed to represent her. At some point after Earnest was retained, without Earnest's knowledge or consent, one or more Indianapolis television stations conducted a videotaped interview with Cline at the jail where she was being held. Parts of the interview were shown on local news programs. It is unclear from the record who arranged and conducted the interview, which media organizations either directly participated or aired any part of the interview, and exactly what was discussed. On July 25, Earnest served subpoenas on WTHR-TV ("WTHR"), the local NBC affiliate on Channel 13, and WRTV-6 ("WRTV"), an ABC affiliate on Channel 6, demanding that the following materials be produced:

Videotape copies of all news footage and tapes (which have not been previously destroyed or reused), aired and unaired, edited and unedited, regarding the death of [Cline's] daughter, Alexis Cline, and regarding the questioning, apprehension, arrest and court appearances of Krista Cline or any other individuals who may have knowledge of this matter. 1

On July 30, a hearing attended by counsel for all parties was held to discuss the discovery request. WTHR and WRTV (collectively "the stations") resisted production of any outtakes "without judicial review," and asserted a constitutional "reporter's privilege" that precluded compulsory disclosure. Although Earnest had not seen the broadcast portion of the interview and did not know the contents of any outtakes, he maintained that his Sixth Amendment duty to provide Cline effective assistance of counsel required him to "investigate her case," even if any video footage was not used at trial. Earnest also asserted that the material might be relevant to a civil action against the news organizations for alleged interference with the attorney-client privilege. Despite the broad nature of the discovery request on its face, Earnest denied at the hearing that he wanted "confidential sources of information" and stated: "I'm just asking for what my client said."

The State was also represented at the hearing and took no position on Cline's discovery request. The stations maintain that Earnest stated at some point that he did not want the requested materials unless the State had copies of them. They also assert that the State has neither requested nor received copies of any video footage related to the case. However, the record discloses no statement to this effect from Earnest himself, and Cline's reiteration of the discovery request at the hearing was not conditioned on the State's obtaining the information. Cline asserts in her brief that the tapes are desired "[p]roactively, rather than having to wait reactively to see if the State will use them against her in their [sic] prosecution."

The trial court concluded the hearing by ordering the stations to produce "any unaired footage pertaining to [this] cause" for in camera inspection, and indicating that the material would be turned over to Cline if it was determined to be relevant or likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. The court ruled that any constitutional privilege that might exist did not apply under these "limited circumstances." In separate motions to stay the order for in camera production, both stations contended that the order violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 9 of the Indiana Constitution to the extent it required production of unaired video footage. However, the stations offered to make available to Cline copies of any previously broadcast footage in their possession. The trial court issued a stay to allow the stations to appeal. We granted transfer on September 5, 1997. 2

I. Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure

The Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure generally apply to criminal proceedings in the absence of a conflicting criminal rule. Ind.Crim. Rule 21; Rita v. State, 674 N.E.2d 968, 970 n. 3 (Ind.1996). Rather than discussing how Cline's discovery request might be resolved under the Trial Rules, the parties and supporting amici base their positions largely on claimed constitutional privilege. This Court normally decides constitutional questions as a matter of last not first resort. Town of Beverly Shores v. Bagnall, 590 N.E.2d 1059, 1063 (Ind.1992); cf. Shoen v. Shoen, 5 F.3d 1289, 1298-1302 (9th Cir.1993) (Kleinfeld, J., concurring) (urging that claim of reporter's privilege be resolved under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure rather than on federal constitutional grounds). Accordingly, before any claim of constitutional privilege is addressed, the threshold issue is whether the Trial Rules permit the enforcement of Cline's subpoena. 3

A. Relevant principles under the Trial Rules

"Our discovery rules are designed to allow liberal discovery with a minimum of court involvement in the discovery process." Richey v. Chappell, 594 N.E.2d 443, 445 (Ind.1992) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Trial Rule 34 enables parties to a lawsuit to request information or material directly from both parties and non-parties. The scope of discovery is governed by Rule 26(B) Parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject-matter involved in the pending action, whether it relates to the claim or defense of the party seeking discovery or the claim or defense of any other party.... It is not ground for objection that the information sought will be inadmissible at the trial if the information sought appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

Ind. Trial Rule 26(B)(1). The material sought must be described with sufficient particularity: "The request shall set forth the items to be inspected either by individual item or by category, and describe each item and category with reasonable particularity." T.R. 34(B). Rule 26(C) requires that any party or third party from whom discovery is requested may be protected from "annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense" and permits a variety of conditions to be imposed. The sum of these provisions is that, as a general proposition, discovery should go forward, but, if challenged, a balance must be struck between the need for the information and the burden of supplying it. Terre Haute Reg'l Hosp. v. Trueblood, 600 N.E.2d 1358 (Ind.1992) (discovery dispute requires court to balance competing interests). The Indiana Trial Rules do not contain the provisions adopted in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in 1991 designed to lessen the burden on third parties who are the targets of discovery requests. See, e.g., FED.R.CIV.P. 45(c). Nonetheless, where non-parties to a dispute are involuntarily dragged into court their interest in being left alone is a legitimate consideration in this balancing and they are no less entitled to any protections the Trial Rules afford. Watters v. Dinn, 633 N.E.2d 280, 288-89 (Ind.Ct.App.1994) ("This court will not tolerate, nor should our trial courts tolerate, violations of the Trial Rules which deprive nonparties of the opportunity to invoke the protection which the rules provide....").

Specifically, in the context of a defendant's discovery request in a criminal case, the following test has been applied to determine whether the information is discoverable: (1) there must be a sufficient designation of the items sought to be discovered (particularity); (2) the items requested must be material to the defense (relevance); and (3) if the particularity and materiality requirements are met, the trial court must grant the request unless there is a showing of "paramount interest" in non-disclosure. See, e.g., Kindred v. State, 540 N.E.2d 1161, 1174 (Ind.1989). 4 Trial court rulings within this framework are reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Id.

Although phrased in terms of particularity, materiality, and paramount...

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