U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Subpoena for NBC reporter to testify at murder trial quashed

Incident Details

Date of Incident
February 7, 2023

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
  • subpoena for other testimony
    • Feb. 7, 2023: Pending
    • Mar. 10, 2023: Objected to
    • May. 8, 2023: Upheld
    • Jun. 5, 2023: Objected to
    • Sep. 14, 2023: Quashed
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue

A portion of a Feb. 7, 2023, subpoena ordering NBC Dateline correspondent Andrea Canning to testify at the retrial of a man charged with murdering his wife. The New York Supreme Court Appellate Division quashed the order on Sept. 14.

February 7, 2023

NBC Dateline reporter Andrea Canning was subpoenaed on Feb. 7, 2023, to testify at an upcoming murder trial. The New York Supreme Court Appellate Division quashed the order on Sept. 14.

Canning interviewed Ganesh R. Ramsaran in 2014 as he was awaiting his initial trial for allegedly murdering his wife. The resulting Dateline episode first aired at the end of October 2014. Ramsaran — who has maintained his innocence — was found guilty and sentenced, but was granted a retrial in 2022.

Benjamin Bergman, the special prosecutor in the Ramsaran retrial, issued Canning a subpoena in early 2023 ordering her to testify at trial to confirm the authenticity of her recorded interview with Ramsaran and to speak to the contents of the interview.

While Bergman initially asserted that he only sought to question Canning about the published portions of the interview, according to court records reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker he later admitted that he required a witness with knowledge of the unpublished sections.

Attorneys for NBCUniversal filed a motion to quash the subpoena on March 10, arguing that she was protected under New York’s Shield Law.

In an affidavit in support of the motion, Canning wrote: “In my reporting on the criminal justice system, my ability to gain interviewees’ trust hinges on my ability to remain separate from law enforcement and criminal prosecution. If I am forced to act as a witness for the government every time I conduct one of these interviews, my role would be virtually indistinguishable from that of law enforcement.”

Chenango County Judge Frank Revoir Jr. denied Canning’s motion on May 8, ruling that her testimony would not be privileged under the Shield Law and that the evidence sought from her is “critical or necessary” to the prosecution’s case.

Canning’s attorneys filed an appeal to the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court in Albany in June. On Sept. 14, the five justices of the court unanimously ruled in favor of Canning, finding that the lower court judge had “exceeded his jurisdiction and power.”

“There is a multitude of other evidence against Ramsaran, including the statements that he made during his telephone calls to 911, his girlfriend and to the police, as well as DNA evidence of the blood found on his clothes and the victim’s van,” the justices wrote. “Ramsaran’s statements during the interview do not contradict any of his other statements, but rather corroborate other available evidence against him.”

Neither Canning nor NBC News responded to requests for comment.

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