U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist Jamie Kalven subpoenaed to testify in police officer trial

Incident Details

Date of Incident
November 16, 2018
Chicago, Illinois

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue
DNAinfo/Sam Cholke
— DNAinfo/Sam Cholke
November 28, 2018 - Update

Subpoena withdrawn

When Kalven tried to cover the first day of the trial on Nov. 27, the judge presiding over the trial ordered him to leave the courtroom, since he was a potential witness, WBEZ reports.

Matthew Topic, Kalven's attorney, objected to the judge's order.

"He’s here as a reporter to cover this trial, and that order excludes him from doing that," Topic said.

"Correct," the judge replied. "Your objection is noted but overruled."

James McKay, the attorney for Chicago police officer David March, later withdrew the subpoena for Kalven's testimony, enabling Kalven to attend the second day of the trial as a member of the media.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of Press, which worked with a coalition of media organizations to submit a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Kalven's motion to quash the subpoena, praised the withdrawal of the subpoena.

"This is a win for both Jamie and the public. With the withdrawal of the subpoena, he is no longer at risk of being compelled to reveal information about his sources," said RCFP staff attorney Sarah Matthews. "And the public will now be able to benefit from his reporting on this trial, which he is uniquely positioned to cover."

November 16, 2018

Jamie Kalven was subpoenaed on Nov. 16, 2018 to testify in the trial of three Chicago police officers accused of lying to protect a fellow police officer who murdered a teenager in 2014.

Kalven is an independent journalist based in Chicago and the founder of the Invisible Institute, a journalistic outlet focused on government accountability.

Three Chicago police officers — David March, Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney — stand accused of falsifying reports about the fatal shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald in 2014. The trial is set to begin Nov. 27, 2018.

The subpoena orders him to appear in court and testify on Nov. 29. Craig Futterman — an attorney and University of Chicago Law School professor who was instrumental in getting video footage related to the shooting released — was also subpoenaed in the case.

In a Nov. 20 motion to quash, his attorneys argue that reporter’s privilege protects Kalven from testifying about his reporting.

“Journalist Jamie Kalven and attorney Craig Futterman have no firsthand knowledge of any events that are possibly relevant to this case; their only connection to the Laquan McDonald shooting or the Defendant’s accused conduct is in reporting on the veracity of the official narrative,” the motion reads.

James McKay — attorney for Chicago police officer on trial David March — did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Kalven was also subpoenaed to testify and reveal details about his sources in October 2017, at a pre-trial hearing in the murder case of former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke.

Attorneys for Kalven quickly filed a motion to quash it, arguing that as a journalist, he could not be forced to reveal information about his sources except under exceptional circumstances. The judge in that case agreed and found that Van Dyke’s attorneys had not shown the necessity of Kalven’s testimony.

That subpoena was quashed in December 2017, and Van Dyke was ultimately found guilty of murdering teenager Laquan McDonald.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].