Today's Judicial Proceedings Surrounding the New Podcast:
Disturbing Details & Why We're Determined to Win
On Halloween of last year, I submitted a public records request to Garrett County, MD, for 911 audio surrounding the case Kromatic Media is covering in its soon-to-be-released podcast. Garrett County refused to release the audio, saying that giving it to me would violate the state's wiretap statute, despite the fact that the state's Attorney General specifically included emergency audio in its public records law.
Lead counsel for the MDDC Press Association has publicly questioned this denial, and no legal professional we have approached about the case believes that the county is justified in its decision. After having several of their chapter leaders look over the case, the Society of Professional Journalists provided Kromatic with the funding required to hire a lawyer to challenge this decision in court.
After being rescheduled more than once, the hearing was finally set for early this morning. I drove from Morgantown to Garrett County (while sick) to find that my lawyer had failed to show up for court.
As we waited, the Garrett County attorney gave me some praise for challenging the ruling, and said that in the *30 years* he has been denying journalists 911 audio, no one -- including the Associated Press and every major newspaper -- has ever challenged him on the matter. This is just shocking.
He also told me that he has been presenting his theory of 911 audio denial to other county attorneys throughout the state, attempting to spread this practice. This is even more disturbing.
I am deeply regretful that I failed to come prepared with the appropriate notes and paperwork to argue the case myself. To argue my own legal case for freedom and access of the press would have been a dream come true, and I am beating myself up for not heading into court with my usual DIY attitude, and instead relying on someone else. I could have done it. Now there is another delay, and I have squandered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Nevertheless, my resolve to win this case has only been strengthened by this failure, and the disturbing information shared with me by the Garrett County attorney. I shook his hand as we left the courtroom, and told him I was looking forward to walking away from the hearing with a victory.